Sermon: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, 18 June 2017, Rev. Paul Weaver, St Alban’s

St.Alban’s Epping, 18th June 2017

 Rev. Paul Weaver

THE PATIENCE OF FAITH

 (Genesis 18:1-15; Psalm 116; Romans 5:1-11; Matthew 9-35-10:8)

“Are we there yet?” Those of us who have driven young children to a place which is not just around the corner will be familiar with the question.

I remember one time when I told one of our young daughters that it would be another ten minutes before we got there. She immediately started counting: “1, 2, 3,….” I had to explain that a minute was longer than that, and it would be some time before we arrived.

Of course, there are times when we too feel impatient because things are taking time. Those phone calls which are very important to the firm or department, but which keep you waiting and waiting and waiting. That traffic jam which is making you late. Those traffic lights which seem quite uninterested in the fact that a substantial number of cars are coming from your direction, and you would really like a decent turn. How long are we going to have to wait?

Our reading from Genesis 18 tells of a couple of people who certainly experienced long delays in receiving the blessings God had promised.

The story of Abraham begins six chapters back, in Genesis 12. Abraham lived in Ur, to the east of Israel. He was a worshipper of the local gods, but the Lord spoke to Abraham and called on him to go and live in a land which he would show him. And the Lord made him some great promises. Not only would the new land belong to him and his descendants, but his descendants would become a great nation, and through him, all the nations of the world would find blessing.

But there was one major problem right from the start. We are told that Abraham was already 75 when he left Ur to travel to God’s promised land. And that meant that his wife Sarah was already in her mid-60’s. And they had no children. Where would these promised descendants of theirs come from?

Abraham and Sarah obeyed God’s call, and made their home in the land chosen by the Lord. They didn’t settle in a particular city or location. It seems that they moved around with their flocks, living in tents. But there were no children. This was not just disappointing for them: it brought into question the promises God had made about having many descendants, and being the Father of a great nation.

Abraham got so concerned about the situation that eventually, about ten years later, he decided to help God along: he took Sarah’s Egyptian slave-girl and had a son with her. Pretty good for an 86 year old! Surely this son, Ishmael, would provide him with an heir, and ultimately become that great nation promised by God.

But this was not God’s answer. In Chapter 17, the Lord appeared to Abraham and assured him that he would be the father of a multitude of nations. However, this would not come about through Ishmael, but through a son who would be born to him and Sarah….And so we come to today’s reading.

It was a really hot day. The midday sun shone down intensely. Definitely siesta time! But Abraham’s siesta was interrupted when three visitors arrived at his tent. I suspect that he didn’t usually get all that many visitors. As I said, he seems to have lived away from towns and moved about.

Had I been in Abraham’s situation, I might well have been thinking: “Oh no! Not now, when I just want a quiet rest!” Perhaps Abraham did too. But he gave these strangers a warm welcome. Water to wash and cool down. And then quite a feast.

Mind you, he couldn’t just get it all out of the freezer and prepare it in the microwave. The cakes had to be prepared and the calf had to be killed, butchered and prepared. This wasn’t a quick snack. This was generous Middle-Eastern hospitality. Certainly we are told that he organized all this as quickly as he could. But no doubt by the time the visitors had had their meal, the afternoon would have been getting on.

As was the custom, Abraham attended the men as they ate, and Sarah kept out of sight in the tent, no doubt listening for any conversation she could pick up. Perhaps this was as much excitement as they had had for some time. And then after lunch came that question from the leader of the visitors: “Where is your wife Sarah?” Abraham indicated that she was in the tent.

And then came the unexpected message. “I will surely return to you next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” Sarah and Abraham have waited for a child for many many years. And when Sarah hears this she laughs to herself with pleasure and excitement: or is there more to it than that? After all, Sarah is now nearly 90: she is well past the age when she might reasonably consider the possibility of having children. And Abraham is just about 100! Perhaps Sarah’s laugh also expresses surprise, and even the sense that the idea is surely ridiculous – even though she must have been aware of God’s promises to Abraham. But then again, has she taken in who Abraham’s visitor actually is?

For as we read the account, we discover that the speaker is the Lord himself. This is one of the times in the Old Testament where the Lord appears in a visible form, in fact in a human form. You may remember that in his sermon on the Trinity last Sunday, Bishop Ross suggested that these occasions may well be times when God the Son, whom we know as Jesus Christ, appeared on earth in advance of his birth in Bethlehem.

And here is the Lord, appearing to Abraham again. He reinforces the promise of a child, and makes clear that this child will be born in a year’s time. “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” he asks Sarah. And the answer is clear: if the Lord has in mind to do something, he is certainly able to do it. He is unlimited in his power, and in his wisdom, to achieve what he chooses to achieve. And so one year later, their son Isaac was born.

Abraham and Sarah had a lot of waiting to do before they experienced the fulfilment of God’s promise of a son and a family. Even the land they were promised they only ever owned a small patch of, as a burial plot. It would be 1000 years before King David would have real control over the Promised Land.

It would be 2000 years before the coming of Jesus, to bring God’s promised blessing of forgiveness and life to people of all nations, as Abraham had been promised. But Paul reminds us in our reading from Romans that it was at the right time, the time of God’s choosing, that Christ died for the ungodly.

And we might add that another 2000 years have passed, and Jesus has still not returned in glory to establish his kingdom in all its fullness, and to put away all the evil which does so much harm in our world – which, after all, is God’s world.

Here is a challenge for us as people of faith. God is not at our beck and call. As I’ve said before, prayer is not a celestial vending machine: in goes the prayer, out comes the automatic answer! The Lord encourages us to have faith in him, and to pray for his help. But his answers may not always be what we expect. And sometimes we may have to wait. Certainly Abraham and Sarah discovered that.

Paul points out that even if life is tough, if suffering is a reality for us, God is not giving up on us, and he will bring good out of the hard times. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” When we have to wait for God’s blessings, God is still there, working his purposes out, helping and strengthening us. Sometimes our faith will be very real to us because we are focused on the good things that God has done for us. Sometimes our faith will be tested, and we will struggle. Perhaps it will be like that father of a sick child who sought Jesus’ help: “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief”.

God seems often to take time to fulfil his purposes. But at the right time he indeed keeps his promises. Christian hope looks to the unseen future knowing that God is at work, and he will in time keep his promises and fulfil his purposes. When faith is a struggle, let’s keep in mind those promises of God which he fulfilled “at the right time”. Let us hang in, and keep trusting and keep following. For indeed nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. Amen.

Paul Weaver

Sermon: Trinity, Sunday, 11 June 2017, Rev. Paul Weaver, St Aidan’s

St.Aidan’s West Epping, 11th June 2017

Rev. Paul Weaver

THE GOD WHO IS LOVE (Trinity Sunday)

 (Exodus 34:1-8; Song of Three Young Men;

2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20)

Every now and again we have a “lightbulb moment”: a moment of unexpected insight or understanding, a time when the penny drops, when we see something we hadn’t seen before. It might be something fairly ordinary, like realizing where we have put that thing we could not find anywhere, or suddenly remembering just who that person is whose name we have not been able to remember. Sometimes these lightbulb moments can be very significant, even life-changing.

I still remember one lightbulb moment the best part of forty years ago when I first worked in the parish. Scripture was a significant part of my ministry, and I was driving from a class at Epping Public School to one at West Epping School. It must have been about this time of year, for I had been thinking about the doctrine of the Trinity, no doubt with a forthcoming sermon in mind. I think that I was reflecting on someone I had heard speaking on the radio, when I suddenly put two truths together that I had not previously connected. One truth was the doctrine that God is a Trinity, and the other was John’s teaching that God is love. God is Trinity. God is love. Putting these two ideas together, seeing how much they interlink, was for me a very significant light bulb moment. Ever since that time, whenever I have thought about the Trinity, I have thought about it in the light of the truth that God is love.

Before that time, I felt I had a good understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. There is one God, the Creator God, who called Abraham and Moses, who made his covenant with the people of Israel. In the person of Jesus Christ he took on human life and shared our earthly existence and even death itself. In the person of the Holy Spirit God works in us and through us to fulfil his purposes and strengthen us in our life and service. And so we believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: there is a distinction between them, and yet they are one, so that we continue to worship one God, not three Gods.

Nor is it that God takes on different forms from time to time, like Clark Kent and Superman. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all eternal. And Jesus prays to his Father in a real way, and he sends the Holy Spirit to work in us.

God is one, and yet God is three. God is a Trinity. But there is nowhere in the scriptures which gives a neat organized explanation of all these things, or answers all those questions we might ask. It is only as we gather together the different strands of the teaching of scripture that we see the truth of this doctrine of the Trinity. You can see why the early church had heated debates and even divisions as they tried to put these truths together, and as they sought to understand this doctrine, and indeed as they used this word to sum it up. Even today the Orthodox Churches have a slight difference from us in their form of the Nicene Creed: in a short while we will say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, whereas their form of the Creed says simply that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. There were and are complex arguments around this difference: I can see a point in either wording, but this great historic argument reminds us that there will always be a limit to our understanding of a God who is infinitely great. There is of course so much about God that he has made clear to us, especially in the scriptures, but there will always be limits to our understanding. We can’t put God into a box of doctrine, and think that we have sorted out everything about him! He is too great for that!

We think of God the Father particularly as our Creator, but also as one who cares for us as humans made in his image. He is in a unique way the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But Jesus himself is truly God: he shares the same divine reality as his Father. He put his glory aside to also share our human existence. One of the many surprising things Christ told his disciples was that when he left them to ascend to his Father’s side, they would be better off. How could that be? Because the Holy Spirit would come to them to be with them: within them and among them, individually and as the church, wherever they were. Jesus was limited in time and space by his physical existence, but now he would come to them, God himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all seem to have special emphases in their ministries to us, and yet their reality and their ministries are also intertwined: they are three and yet one.

When Sarah and I were in Jordan some years ago, our Moslem driver was talking about his understanding of God, the holy and only God. Jesus he could honour as a great prophet and teacher, but that was all. I told him that as Christians we believe that Jesus was and is God, coming among us to share our humanity and teach us and die for us. He found the idea ridiculous. “He is the holy God! Why would he do that?” I explained that God loved us so much that he did not want us to stay at a distance from him: he wanted us to share with him the blessings he has to offer, and Jesus came to make that possible. Our driver believed in a solitary God, who in his holiness kept us at a distance. I believe – we believe – in a God who is Trinity: a God who is indeed holy, but who reaches out to us in his love, sharing our lives in a real and wonderful way, and drawing us to himself: forgiving us at immense cost through the death of his divine Son, Jesus Christ.

The Trinity is a doctrine which is complex, and can seem hard to understand. But it is more than that: it points us to the very reality of God. God is not simply a God who is loving, wonderful though that is. It brings out the truth that God is love. God did not need to make us before he had anyone to love. There is relationship in the very being of God. Love is at the heart of God’s existence.

Think of our first reading from Exodus. The Israelites had forgotten all that God had done for them and all that he had promised them. They had turned to false gods, worshipping the golden calf even as Moses was receiving the words of the covenant on the mountain. The stones of the covenant had been destroyed, and now Moses was receiving them anew. The Holy One, the Lord who simply is, who exists independent of anyone and anything, reminded them of who he is. And notice how, even in this situation where his people were so badly in the wrong, the Lord described himself as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and kindness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”. Only then did he also remind the people that he was not to be trifled with: sin still had its consequences, especially for those who were not open to God’s mercy and his correction. Even this early in the scriptures, we are reminded that God is love.

And then we heard those familiar final words from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthian Christians were a difficult bunch. Going off in all sorts of wrong directions: so often arguing and divided. Paul calls them to seek to show love and unity in their life together: of course this love and unity reflects the love and unity of the God who is Trinity. And he closes the letter with this beautiful prayer of blessing, which has been used for centuries to close the liturgy in the Anglican services of Morning and Evening Prayer. Jesus Christ who is the divine Lord brings God’s grace to us. God the Father shares his love with us. And the Holy Spirit brings us together in his love. This is one of the relatively few places in the New Testament where we see the three persons of the Trinity so neatly linked. You’ll find them at Jesus’ baptism and in a number of other places, but here they are so beautifully linked in this beautiful prayer.

And in Jesus’ words which close the Gospel of Matthew we find the risen Jesus himself commissioning his disciples to continue his work on earth. His authority is not just as the Messiah of Israel, but as the Lord of all the earth. He will be with them, not physically but in the person of the Holy Spirit. And they are to take his message not just to the people of Israel now, but to make disciples – students – of Jesus from all nations, people who wish to know and understand and follow him. And as people turn to him, they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Note that it is not the names of the members of the Holy Trinity, but the name. The Trinity is a Unity, and ultimately God is one.

And if God is love, what are we to be like? We know that we are made in God’s image and restored to fellowship with God. Of course then, we are to be people who reflect the love of God and show the love of God to others. That’s at the heart of what following Christ is all about.

God is a Trinity. God is love. May God’s love be lived out in our lives as we daily live as followers of Christ. Amen.

Paul Weaver

Sermon: Pentecost, Sunday, 4 June 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Spiritual Gifts- 1Corinthians 12:1-13

-As I’ve gotten older I’ve been more and more impressed with the complexity of the human body.

-Usually these impressions hit me two days after a weekend of gardening!!!

-The Apostle Paul says in 1Corinthians 12;

“If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.” 1Corinthians 12:15

-I understand exactly what he means.

-But usually it’s my head saying after a long walk,

-‘I really wish those feet belonged to someone else!’

 

-Today we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

-The major distinctive between Christianity and every other religion is our insistence that God is Trinity.

-Next Sunday we’ll hear even more about this,

-But suffice to say that the major implication of this doctrine,

-Is that the Christian faith is incredibly relational.

-At the very heart of our belief is that there is only one God,

-Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

-Three persons in divine unity,

-Three persons in eternal relationship.

 

-As Jesus’ ministry on earth was drawing to a close he began to focus more of his teaching on the Holy Spirit,

-To the point where at the Last Supper he tells the disciples;

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth,” John 14:15

-And then immediately before his ascension he declared;

“(But) you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

-The Holy Spirit will come to the believer and indwell them.

-Jesus has to go away otherwise the Holy Spirit can’t come.

-But it’s through the Holy Spirit that these words of Jesus make sense;

“On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” John 14:20

-For all the metaphysical difficulties that three persons yet one God pose to our finite minds,

-The implication is clear,

-Personal relationships are at the very heart of the nature and character of God.

-And because of that,

-We mortal beings are able to enter into a personal relationship with the eternal God,

-A relationship that is manifest through the Holy Spirit dwelling within the follower of Jesus,

-Just as the Holy Spirit dwells within the godhead.

 

-Paul picks up that Trinitarian formula when addressing the spiritual gifts in 1Corinthians 12.

-And clearly the question of spiritual gifts was on the Corinthian’s minds because in his opening words in ch1,

-He acknowledges that they don’t lack any spiritual gift.

-But having the gifts is not what concerns Paul,

-But their attitude to them,

-And how rather than uniting the Corinthians as the body of Christ,

-They were a flashpoint of division.

 

-You can see how Paul draws unity and spiritual gifts together in vv4-6 through a Trinitarian allusion;

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” 1Corinthians 12:4-6

-There are a number of different gifts that Christians can receive,

-And he’ll catalogue a few of them,

-But they all come from the Holy Spirit.

-There’s lots of different ways that these gifts can be used to serve,

-But the focus of service is our Lord Jesus Christ.

-And there are a variety of ways these different gifts and services can be activated by God,

-But it’s the same heavenly Father who activates them differently in everyone’s lives.

 

-The unity of the godhead which is the source of the spiritual gifts that the Corinthians were so proud of is actually being denied,

-Because they’ve broken themselves up into these little camps within the church,

-And forgotten what the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power is for.

-Rather than bringing them together as one body,

-The gifts are being used as a badge of individual status and honour.

-But Paul corrects that with his body illustration in vv12-13;

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1Corinthians 12:12-13

-It’s hard for us with 2,000 years of Christian history to fully understand the antipathy between Jews and Gentiles in the first century,

-And just how significant this division was in that world.

-Jews considered Gentiles to be idolatrous dogs.

-The Gentiles thought no better of Jews.

-We probably get the slave and free distinction a little more readily because of America’s history.

-But because of our 20th century equalitarianism,

-We puzzle over an acceptance of a degrading situation which everyone took as normal.

-And because of that,

-We lose a lot of the power of Pauls’ words,

-That we’re all baptised into one body through the Holy Spirit,

-Regardless of whether we were Jews or Gentiles,

-Slaves or free.

-This was a situation which was completely counter cultural,

-It was socially unheard of.

-And yet that is the reality of the Christian life.

-We’re different parts of the one body.

 

-But the Holy Spirit does more than unite us.

-Recall vv4-6;

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” 1Corinthians 12:4-6

-Paul recognises that the spiritual gifts are given to be used in service of God and one another.

-The gifts were given for the common good.

-There are a number of other passages where Paul speaks about the different gifts that the Spirit pours upon the church.

-To the Romans he wrote;

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:4-8

-The point that Paul is making here is that we all have different gifts and they’re not to be treated lightly.

-We’ve all been given at least one spiritual gift and we’re to use it within and for the wider body.

 

-When Paul addressed the Corinthian’s questions about the spiritual gifts,

-He focussed on what we’d call the more supernatural gifts,

-Words of knowledge,

-Healing,

-Miracles,

-Prophecy,

-Spiritual discernment,

-Tongues.

-That may have been because the Corinthians were boasting about how super-spiritual they were,

-And were skiting about these supernatural gifts.

-But in addressing the Romans,

-Paul is much more pragmatic.

-That may be because he’s just told the Romans to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice,

-And what could be deemed more mundane activities like serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and mercy,

-Are in fact true and proper worship.

-And these gifts will just as effectively build up the body of Christ as the more spectacular ones.

 

-When he wrote to the Ephesians Paul not only listed the gifts that were given,

-But he helpfully explains the reason why they’re given;

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13

-The reason for the gifts is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

-The gifts are to be used to serve one another with the goal of building up the body.

-That’s the reason why Paul was so critical of the Corinthians and their attitude and behaviour.

-They saw the gifts as an authenticator of their own spirituality.

-But that’s not what they’re given for.

 

-A core characteristic of Christianity is its focus on others.

-Christianity is ‘other person centred’ in contrast to the self-centredness of our individualistic western consumer culture.

-This is most powerfully expressed in Philippians 2;

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”  Philippians 2:5-7

-Even though he was God,

-Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.

-He didn’t consider humanity to be something beneath him either.

-Instead he became a human being so that he could save us human beings.

-Jesus’ focus was on obedience to his heavenly Father and serving humanity,

-Not his own power, authority or comfort.

 

-All of this flows out of the relationship within God himself,

-Father, Son and Spirit extending their love to a needy world.

-When the Holy Spirit was given he empowered the followers of Jesus to be imitators of God.

-With the Holy Spirit within us,

-We now have the power to be who God created us to be,

-His image,

-His representatives in this world.

-There’s a reason the church is called the body of Christ,

-Because we are to show the world the love and grace of Jesus.

-We are to serve God, one another and a needy world.

-That’s our common goal and purpose because we are all of one body.

-And yet like the God we serve there is diversity in our unity,

-A diversity which Christ will use to build up his body on earth.

Sermon: Ecumenical Pentecost Service, Tuesday, 30 May 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, Chester Street Uniting Church

Pentecost: Acts 2, Genesis 11

-What would you change if you could turn back time?

-If you could turn the past around and bring in a brand new future?

-What would that future be like if you could turn your past around?

-In the 2004 movie ‘The Butterfly Effect’,

-Ashton Kutcher plays a character who could travel through time and change past events in his life.

-He wanted to change an injustice that he’d participated in,

-But changing that one tiny event had unforeseen ramifications as the new future evolved.

-He had to go back and then make other changes,

-But each change resulted in even more catastrophic events.

-The title of the movie comes from the saying used to summarise chaos theory,

-That a beat of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas.

-A seemingly insignificant event in the Amazon Basin,

-Could alter the course of a furious storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

-I wonder if Adam had any inkling of the storm he would unleash when he bit deeply into that forbidden fruit?

-With that first rebellion against God,

-A ripple of sin resonated throughout the whole world.

-That first man and woman’s relationship turned from blessing to curse.

-The intimacy of marriage so beautifully illustrated in the innocence of nakedness,

-Is turned into hiding and shame.

-The unity of one flesh is transformed into alienation, blame and accusation.

-Like the pyroclastic cloud of an exploding volcano,

-Sin smothers every aspect of human existence with a suffocating cloud of destruction.

-Work is turned into toil.

-Disease, disorder, demons and death replace the blessing,

-The life,

-The peace of the original creation.

 

-And yet even in the midst of this disaster God has a plan to turn back time,

-To change the course of history.

-Hear how Peter describes it in his speech on the day of Pentecost;

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Acts 2: 22-23

-God’s plan was to send his Son Jesus into our world to reverse the rebellion.

-But unlike the character in ‘The Butterfly Effect’,

-Jesus’ actions would correct the situation,

-Jesus’ intervention would be perfect,

-And he’d set the creation back on the path it was created for.

-Peter tells the assembled crowd on the steps of the temple in Jerusalem what they already knew about Jesus,

-That he was proven to be God by his miracles, wonders and signs.

-Those contemporary inhabitants of Jerusalem would have seen first hand the ministry of Jesus,

-They’d have seen many of the miracles he did.

-They’d have seen him reversing the fall,

-Turning back the ravages of sin and restoring the created order.

 

-What was Jesus doing when he gave sight to the blind,

-Made the lame walk and the deaf hear?

-He was removing the effects of disease and sickness in creation.

-What was he doing when he cast out demons and released the oppressed?

-He was overthrowing the power of the devil in creation.

-What was Jesus doing when he calmed the storm and walked on water?

-He was exercising control over a disordered nature,

-Bringing divine order into earthly chaos.

-And when Jairus’s daughter, the widow’s son and his friend Lazarus were brought back to life?

-He was defeating death.

-All of those curses of the fall are reversed by Jesus.

-And then sin itself is defeated.

-By God’s set purpose and foreknowledge,

-Wicked men put Jesus to death by nailing him to the cross.

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Acts 2: 24

-His death on the cross paid for our sins.

-Jesus’ sacrifice cleansed our souls.

-On the cross Jesus substituted himself for us,

-He suffered the curse of God we deserved for our rebellion,

-And exhausted that punishment through his death.

-Then he rose back to life.

-Sin and death are defeated.

-Satan loses his power over humanity,

-Jesus restores creation and sends it back in the direction God intended.

 

-But the story doesn’t end there.

-Jesus didn’t just pop up from the grave and say,

-‘Good luck gang you’re on your own now!’

-No, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the next gift of the divine presence.

-But before we go there we need to go back again to the beginning,

-To another event which showed the trajectory of life for a sin blemished humanity.

-It’s the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

-A story which follows up the cataclysm of the Flood and the new beginning with Noah.

-Let me just read the beginning of this story to you,

-And see if you can’t hear some resonances with the events of Pentecost in Acts 2:

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11: 1-4

 

-What was it about the building of this tower that so offended God?

-It was the desire of the builders to make a name for themselves and not be scattered.

-When God created humanity he gave those first humans the command to fill the earth (Gen 1:28.)

-In other words God told humanity to scatter over the world.

-The Babel builders,

-Just like Adam and Eve,

-Rebelled and disobeyed God.

-They wanted to ‘make a name for themselves’,

-They wanted to be the shapers of their own identity,

-To be the autonomous creators of their own being.

-Who does that sound like?

 

-You and me and every other sinful human being that has walked this earth.

-But God intervenes to fulfill his command.

-He confuses their language so they can no longer understand each other,

-They can no longer communicate.

-They’re cursed with ethnic and tribal differences.

-We don’t need to look too far in our own modern history to see that curse at work do we?

-Africa,

-The Middle East,

-Asia.

-Fractured community,

-Communal breakdown,

-Cultural differences that lead to rivalry, jealousy, racism.

 

-But again God has a plan.

-A plan he announces in Genesis 12 to a 70 year old wanderer;

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12: 1-3

-Did you hear the reversal in that promise?

-‘I will make your name great’

-‘I will make you into a great nation’

-‘I will bless you and through you all peoples on earth will be blessed.’

-The builders of Babel wanted to make a name for themselves,

-But God says to Abraham ‘I will make your name great’.

-The Babel builders wanted to create their own nation,

-But God says to Abraham ‘I’ll make you into a great nation.’

-The Babel builders wanted to bless themselves.

-They wanted to construct their own blessing from the creation of their own hand,

-And rejected the blessing that can only come through a proper recognition of the Creator God.

-So they get confused and scattered.

-But God’s plan always was to unite and bless,

-To bring a scattered, rebellious people back together as one.

 

-Through the death and resurrection of Jesus sin and death were dealt with.

-Then through the gift of the Holy Spirit a scattered humanity is drawn together in a new community.

-Listen again to Acts ch2:

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” Acts 2: 1-6

-Isn’t that awesome.

-No wonder the people were bewildered.

-For thousands and thousands of years,

-Humanity was separated and divided by the inability to understand what another tribe, neighbour or nation was saying.

-But on this Pentecost morning,

-They were hearing God’s plan of salvation for themselves.

-Just as the divine presence of Jesus reversed the effects of the fall,

-So now the divine presence of the Holy Spirit reverses the curse of Babel.

-Through the power of the Holy Spirit present in our daily life,

-A new humanity is created,

-A new nation is formed,

-A new community is founded.

-God turned back history and fulfilled that promise he made to Abraham.

-Through Jesus,

-A descendant of Abraham brought blessing to all mankind.

 

-Friends, we are the recipients of that great gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

-We’re the recipients of a new name,

-A new family.

-We are now God’s people,

-God’s new community.

-And what does Peter say of this new community,

-What are the marks that make us different?

-We have a new vision.

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2: 17

-We will have a new way of looking at life in this world.

-We’ll see this world through the eyes of Christ.

-We’ll see what Jesus sees and will desire to see his will done in this world.

 

-Have you ever wondered why the opening request of the Lord’s prayer is;

-‘Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.’?

-If you are a true follower of Jesus you’ll want to see God honoured in this world,

-You’ll want to see people recognizing his rule as King,

-You’ll want to see people obediently following his will for their lives.

-But vision is more than the passive desire for these things to occur,

-The vision Peter proclaims in the words of the old prophet Joel is one where the people of God,

-Filled with the Holy Spirit of God,

-See in their minds eye the things that could be done in this world for God’s glory,

-And then set about bringing that preferred future into reality,

-Bringing those dreams of a better future into existence with real world actions.

-What vision has God put in your heart?

-What are you doing to project that vision and make that dream a reality?

 

-Have a listen to the vision that Peter tells us that King David had and wrote about;

“I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Acts 2: 25-28

-David saw Jesus and that he made known the paths of life.

-Because David could see Jesus he says ‘I will live in hope.’

-David rightly recognizes that in Jesus there’s life.

-Jesus himself said it,

-‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’

-‘I have come that they may have life.’

-‘I am the bread of life.’

-The mark of God’s new community is life,

-Real life.

-Life that has purpose and meaning.

-Life that is rich and full.

-Life that gives hope and fills us with joy.

-That new life should radiate out of us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

-Again can I ask have you experienced this life?

-If you have,

-How are you promoting this life that Jesus gives so freely to this needy world?

 

-The final mark of the renewed people of God is peace.

-Have a look at the final descriptor that Luke gives of the new community formed after the day of Pentecost;

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2: 42-45

-The curse of the Fall and the curse of Babel are removed.

-People from all the nations of the world hear the good news of Jesus in their own language,

-And God unites them in a new family.

-We have peace with God and a renewed peace with one another.

-See how it’s expressed in v44;

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Acts 2: 44

-They shared everything,

-They held everything in common.

-They met needs as they arose.

-Can you see how different that is to that group of people who wanted to make a name for themselves?

-Here is a group of people who through the power of the Holy Spirit are completely transformed.

-Rather than rebelling against God,

-They gather together and worship him.

-Rather than jealousy and envying one another they serve others graciously.

-Rather than being scattered, suspicious and closed off,

-The Lord adds daily to their numbers.

-Let me ask one last time,

-What part do you play in practising this peace and opening yourself to a turbulent and needy world?

 

-The good news of Jesus is that with the power of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives,

-We are enabled to have a new vision, new life and new peace.

-We’re not only given this new future as a gift to us,

-We’re given the blessing of sharing that future and to be a blessing to others,

-To being part of God’s plan to restore the whole of creation under the Lordship of Christ.

Sermon: Evensong, 7th Sunday of Easter, 28 May 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Seventh Sunday of Easter, 28 May 2017

Evensong

Bishop Ross Nicholson

The Lamb Wins!- Revelation 14:1-5, 15:1-4

-I want you to close your eyes and picture in your mind what you hear.

“The dragon stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” Revelation 13:1-4

-Have you got a picture in your mind?

-That was the vision John the Elder was given of the times he was living in.

 

-The book of Revelation is a book filled with startling and often horrific images.

-And what could be more terrifying?

-A huge seven headed dragon that with a swipe of its tail can fling a third of the stars from heaven to earth.

-John has just seen how this dragon had been pursuing a woman,

-Spewing out a huge torrent of water trying to sweep her away.

-But its murderous attempts were thwarted as the earth opened up,

-And swallowed the river the dragon had spewed out of its mouth.

-So what’s the angry dragon’s next move?

-It calls up from the sea a beast just like itself,

-Seven heads, ten horns,

-With the speed and agility of a leopard,

-The brute force of a bear,

-And the fearsome power of a lion.

 

-But what’s maybe more horrifying to John is the response of the people who see this beast,

-They marvel at it,

-They’re attracted to its awesome presence,

-And they fall down and worship the beast and the dragon who gave it its power and authority.

-From these worshippers lips comes the cry,

-Or maybe it’s a boast,

-‘Who is like the beast?

-‘Who is able to make war with him?’

-Now if you understand that John’s book is what’s known as apocalyptic,

-You’d know that he wasn’t describing a real dragon but the devil.

-You’d also know that the beast was the Roman Empire.

-But dragon or empire,

-John is seeing the fearful sway that the forces opposed to God and his kingdom will mount up,

-Against the Church and the followers of Jesus.

-If the worshippers of the beast declare,

-‘Who is able to make war with him?’

-The question on John’s reader’s mind would be,

-‘How can we stand against such a power?’

 

-I tried to find out who originally proposed it,

-But someone once summarised the Book of Revelation in just three words,

-‘The Lamb wins!’

-The followers of the beast boast;

-‘Who is able to make war with him?’

-And the answer from John is ‘The Lamb!’

-The worshippers of the dragon brag,

-‘Who is like the beast?’

-The book of Revelation asks,

-‘Who is like the Lamb?’

-John is seeing a terrifying vision of the dragon and his surrogate the beast at the end of ch13,

-But ch14 begins;

“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion,” Revelation 14: 1

 

-Tonight we’re jumping late into the story,

-But if we go back to ch5 then we’ll be introduced to the Lamb.

-And what an introduction!

-John sees the door to heaven thrown wide open,

-And a voice calls on him to enter and see what must take place on earth.

-When he enters,

-The full majesty of heaven invades his senses as he steps into the very throne room of God.

-Then he writes in ch5;

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:1-5

-This scroll is the scroll of the destiny of humanity,

-It’s the plans and purposes of God for the restoration of humanity,

-But it’s divinely sealed and no one in heaven or on earth could break the seals.

-Except the Lion of Judah,

-The Root of David,

-The triumphant king,

-He can do it.

-And the whole of heaven waits expectantly for this Lion King to come forward.

 

-John must have been overwhelmed by the glory of his vision of the One sitting on the throne,

-Because he looks again and standing in the centre of the throne,

-Encircled by four living creatures and the twenty four elders,

-He sees a Lamb.

-But even more astounding is that this Lamb looks like it had been slain.

-The Lion is a Lamb that has been ravaged by death.

-And as the Lamb takes the scroll from the hand of God,

-The four creatures and twenty-four elders sing a new song;

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

 

-After seeing the terrifying vision of the dragon and the beast rising from the ocean,

-John once again looks and once again he sees the Lamb.

-This time he sees him standing on Mt Zion and with him are 144,000 saints.

-But we know from ch7 that this isn’t just 144,000 individuals,

-144,000 stands for a great multitude that no one could count,

-From every nation, tribe, people and language.

-These are the followers of Jesus who the four creatures and elders sang about,

-Who are a kingdom and priests who will serve God and reign on earth.

-It’s Jesus’ and the Father’s name that they carry on their foreheads.

-Not the name or the mark of the beast.

-These are the ones who didn’t crumple under the onslaught of the dragon and the beast.

-Just listen to how John describes them;

“These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.”

 

-They have four characteristics that mark them off as belonging to Jesus.

-First they kept themselves pure.

-It wasn’t that they never married,

-But they didn’t follow the licentious path of the culture around them.

-Rather than following the beast where it led,

-They follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

-The weight of that statement lies in the knowledge of where the Lamb went,

-To death in order to save his people.

-Redemption was the third mark of the 144,000,

-They were purchased by the blood of the Lamb to be the people of God and serve the Lamb.

-Finally they’re truthful,

-No lie was found in their mouth.

-Because of all these characteristic,

-Because of what the Lamb did in dying,

-They’re blameless.

-The dragon has lost his power over them.

-Friends, can I remind you that these are words describing us,

-We are the ones John sees amongst that 144,000.

-Because the Lamb wins!

 

-As horrifying as the visions of ch12-13 are,

-The truth is that the seal has been opened and we can see the future.

-The dragon loses!

-Listen to how ch15 begins;

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.” Revelation 15:1

-History is moving inexorably to its conclusion,

-And in describing that future John alludes back to another rescue of God’s people Israel.

“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name.” Revelation 15:2

-Exodus 15 records the Song of Moses as the rescued people of God stand safely on the other side of the Red Sea.

-God’s judgement has fallen upon the Egyptians.

-The people sing;

“The Lord is my strength and my defence, he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.”

-The Lord wins!

 

-And just as the Lord delivered his people from the power of the Egyptians,

-So the Lamb delivers his people from the power of the Dragon;

-And his people sing;

“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4

Sermon: 7th Sunday of Easter, 28 May 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Seventh Sunday of Easter, 28 May 2017

St Alban’s

Bishop Ross Nicholson

1Peter 5:1-14

-On Wednesday morning at the gym I was asked,

-‘What do you make of all this happening in Manchester?’

-I’m sure a suicide bomber who just blows himself up wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

-But when it happens in the middle of a concert crowd surrounded by children and teenagers,

-It shocks our sensibilities and raises those deepest questions of justice and suffering,

-Of good and evil.

-One of the most commonly asked questions about faith revolves around suffering.

-Within all its permutations,

-The root question is ‘why does a good God allow bad things to happen?’

-And these questions of suffering are not just restricted to people wanting to challenge or reject faith,

-These are questions that will disturb and unsettle people of any thoughtful worldview.

 

-For the apostle Peter this issue of suffering has not been very far from all his words to his Christian readers.

-Even within his opening paragraph there’s the recognition that our Christian faith is actually birthed in suffering;

“To the exiles . . . who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:”

-We’re strangers and aliens in this world because of the violent and unjust death of Jesus.

-As Isaiah put it;

“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity . . . But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3,5

 

-Because of Jesus’ sufferings,

-His followers will also enter into trials;

“In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,” 1Peter 1:6

-But Peter will have nothing of suffering being a random consequence of an impersonal universe,

-Nor the purposeless providence of an indifferent god.

-Listen to what he says in 1Peter 1:6-7;

“In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1Peter 1:6-7

-Peter reminds his readers that the struggles and trials that come their way,

-Will be over and above the day-to-day suffering that afflicts all human beings in a fallen and broken world.

-There are going to be unique afflictions that’ll come purely because we’re followers of Jesus.

 

-Listen to this string of reminders;

-1Peter 2:12;

“Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.” 1Peter 2:12

-You’ll be maligned with false accusations.

-1Peter 2:20;

 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.” 1Peter 2:20

-You’ll be exposed to unwarranted violence.

-1Peter 3:13;

“Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,” 1Peter 3:13

-You’ll experience injustice and intimidation.

-1Peter 4:12;

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1Peter 4:12

-All of these things are going to be the normal part of the Christian life.

 

-We sometimes forget that in our pampered Western Christendom culture.

-We currently have it easy in the West,

-But that’s not the case for our brothers and sisters in large parts of Asia,

-In the Middle East,

-And Muslim dominated African states.

-They live daily with violence, injustice, intimidation and death.

-We pay little attention to the price a Muslim often pays to convert to Christianity.

-But that’s their day-to-day condition.

-And the one the followers of Jesus in the first century experienced,

-As evidenced by Peter’s words at the end of ch4;

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. 16 Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name (NRSV). . . 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)” 1Peter 4:12-16,19

 

-Jenn will tell you that one of my grumpy old man rants will erupt,

-When an interviewee begins their answer with ‘so’.

-Journalist: Tell the viewers what happened?

-Interviewee: So, we were like walking, and then it just happened!

-Aaaaargh!!!!

-‘So’ is used as a meaningless fill word instead of ‘um’ or ‘ah’.

-But did you hear how Peter just used it?

-After cataloguing all the different ways Christ and his followers will be afflicted,

-He makes the point;

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)” 1Peter 4:19

 

-There’s a purpose and result in view that follows on from what was said before.

-And here’s something even more significant,

-It’s not clear in many of our English translations but it’s literally what Peter writes at the beginning of ch5,

-After every other chapter has mentioned in some way or another the sufferings that will face the follower of Jesus,

-He writes;

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you,” 1Peter 5:1-2 (ESV)

 

-Can you see the significance of that tiny little word ‘so’?

-With all these trials and tribulations these elders will see,

-Peter charges,

-‘So, shepherd the flock that is under your care.’

-Why?

-Because the people of God are going to need it.

 

-There are over a hundred references to shepherd or shepherds in the Bible,

-But there are two very different ways the word is used.

-The first is the literal way,

-A shepherd is a person who looks after sheep.

-But the second is metaphorical,

-A shepherd is a leader or ruler.

-When David sings,

-‘The Lord is my shepherd’

-That’s how he means it.

-‘God is my Lord, my ruler, my King,

-When God says of Cyrus the king of Babylon,

“He is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose,” Isaiah 44:28

-He’s not describing an agricultural hobby Cyrus has on the side.

-Cyrus was the ruler who would send God’s people back to their homeland.

 

-See the significance then of Peter’s exhortation that the elders be shepherds of the flock?

-He’s saying provide leadership to the church,

-Provide guidance and direction.

-He’s saying what God promised through the prophet Jeremiah;

“I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15

-He’s not saying when bad things happen,

-Sit by the bedside and hold the hands of the suffering.

-He’s saying do what godly leadership demands,

-Prepare those in your charge for the reality of life as a follower of Jesus,

-Feed them with knowledge and understanding,

-Protect them from the wolves that would ravage the flock,

-Do what the kings were supposed to do for God’s people.

 

-This emphasis on the shepherd as a leader is confirmed by the injunctions that follow;

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” 1Peter 5:2-3

-If you had some doubts about the link between shepherd and leaders,

-‘Exercising oversight’ should put that to rest.

-But so should the rest of that list.

-‘Not under compulsion’.

-A Christian leader should not be compelled to serve,

-It should arise from seeing a need and offering the spiritual gifts, talents and skills that God has endowed you with,

-To willingly step up and meet that need in order to build up the body.

-‘Not for shameful gain’,

-The motivation for our leadership ought to be different to the worldly motivators that surround us.

-Our eagerness to lead should arise from a desire to serve.

-‘Not domineering over those in your charge’,

-That too is the way of the world.

-Jesus had to remind his wayward disciples that the first will be last,

-The Christian shepherd is to lead by example,

-Just as Jesus did.

 

-Although Peter addresses his next injunctions to the young leaders,

-Note how these previous injunctions still hold;

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another,”1Peter 5: 5

-Humility in the ancient world was actually viewed as a moral weakness.

-It was Christianity that turned that view on its head,

-Because of the example and words of Jesus.

-But for Peter here,

-This is not about our relations with others but toward God himself.

-And this is where Peter caps of the discussion of suffering.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:6-7

-Rather than worrying about all the things that are coming against you because of your faith,

-Humble yourself by casting your anxieties on God.

 

-Why would casting our worries onto God be humbling?

-Because we so often believe we can get by doing everything on our own.

-It actually takes humility to recognise that we’re not God,

-And have all the answers.

-How many of your anxieties would evaporate if you stepped back and said,

-‘Lord I can’t handle this situation,

-‘I need your help.’

-Whether you’re a shepherd or a sheep,

-We are all in God’s hand.

-It will be a rare occasion that we can give or get an answer for the suffering in this world.

-Most often we will need to humbly accept that God is in control,

-And rest in that knowledge.

-If you are a shepherd,

-It will be your task to help others see that truth.