Sunday, 22 December 2013

Heavenly Bodies part 2

Advent 4 year A Sermon

How confident can we bewhen our cynical  non-Christian friends…dismiss Jesus’ story as irrelevant 

or a myth…or when people claim the Gospel record
in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…has no historic validity?
Or when our highly spiritual new age friends… say well that’s just fine, but it’s not the only story.

Do we have any rational objective reason to believe other than our personal experience of God?

Well, last week… we learned from the sciences of astronomy and archaeology that…it’s the skeptics view that’s often rooted in ignorance…. and misinformation.

This year my friend Professor Jeff Tallon…
was jointly awarded the inaugural Prime Minister's Science Prize… for outstanding achievement.  A strong Christian and a good speaker…Jeff gave me permission,,, to present his scientific understanding… of why we can have confidence in the Gospel records.

Camels slide
Last week using Jeff’s scientific evidence… we established Jesus would have been born… sometime in 2 BC
and visited by the wise men …very likely…18 months later
on December 25 the first day of Hanukka…the Jewish holiday when gifts are given…precisely when we celebrate Christmas.

We established this working backwards… from verifiable events at the time of Jesus death…all recorded independently of the Gospel accounts.

Ancient Hebrew slide
This week we’re going to search…for the exact date of Jesus’ birth…and learn even more about the Bethlehem star
this time working forward…from the beginning
of a human life…not the end.

We’re starting our search from the wonderful moment a real human life began …from the conception of John the Baptist

You can follow this if you want to…in the first chapter of Luke. We know from Luke’s Gospel …that Jesus’ cousin was six months older…so John would’ve been conceived between
3 and 4 BC. Using information gathered by Luke
we can now verify the probable date… of John’s conception …independently of the gospels. Luke tells us

Priests slide
 ‘In the time of Herod king of Judea… there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah… One day when Zechariah's division was on duty
in the Temple…Luke tells us

Angel slide
…an angel of the Lord appeared to him.
When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Don’t be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer’s been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you are to name him John…And he’ll go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous to make ready a people…prepared for the Lord.

Hebrew slide
We know from official Jewish records of the time…that the Division of Abijah was the eighth Division of priests…and in 4 BC the eighth Division served from May 19 to June 16… After their time of service finished…Luke tells us…
Zechariah went home… and Elizabeth conceived.

Allowing for nine months of pregnancy…John would have been born around the 7th of March, 3 BC.
and Jesus born…six months later…

Slide words
around the September the 7th…in the year 3 BC.
I want you to remember that date.

Now we return to the question we were asking last week
…just exactly what was… the star of Bethlehem?

Remember the Magi…wise men from Babylonia in the East remember they were astronomers and astrologists. The way the stars and planets behaved had great significance for them.

When we look at the astrological evidence through their eyes …through the eyes of the Magi…here’s what we find.
And from now I’m going to use Professor Jeff Tallon’s own slides … …

Jupiter danced slide  (with two clicks)
Ancient Babylonian astrological records tells us
that in 3 BC Jupiter ‘danced’…that means viewed from earth
Jupiter appeared to go back and forth.

[1] Modern astronomy shows us… what actually happened
is that Jupiter and Venus… the two brightest planets
went into conjunction twice…once in August three BC
[2] and again in June… two BC.
(in the slide – Venus is showing as a crescent).

What would have made these two events so fascinating
to wise men looking for astrological signs and portents…
is that between those two dates
when Jupiter appears to dance

11 September Slide (with 4 clicks)
[1] precisely on the 11th of September 3 BC…

[2]Jupiter…which was known as the King planet…
moved into conjunction with [3] Regulus…the King star
and all this occurred in the constellation of [4] Leo…the Lion …to the Hebrew people…the constellation of Judah!!!

Given their understanding of what this meant
wise men from the East… would easily believe
the stars they actually saw …were predicting…
a king would be born to the nation of Judah.

Virgo Slide (7 clicks)
And on exactly the same night…September 11… 3 BC…
[2] the planet Venus moved into the constellation of Virgo …along with [3] Mercury and [4] the sun.

To the ancient Babylonian Magi
the sun in the womb of Virgo (the virgin)…would have been a powerful image… foretelling of immaculate conception.

[5] Today
from a computer generated image
of the night sky on that very date[6] we can just make out
the crescent moon… lying under the feet of Virgo.

Remember this passage from our series on Revelation.
“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth… She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations.”

If this astrological event was well known to John of Patmos …it wouldn’t be surprising at all…would it?
because it really occurred.

Now just in case your dubious about this…we now know from ancient Hebrew scrolls discovered at Qumran
that astrology was practised by Jews and Babylonians alike.
And archaeologist have the 12 signs of the zodiac were imprinted in a mosaicon the floor of the Temple in Jerusalem…one constellation… for each tribe of Israel

A virgin with the sun in her belly and the moon at her feet…what an amazing way for God to communicate
with ancient peoples – according to their science.

Mary slide
In fact…some of the earliest presentations of Mary…show the crescent moon…below her feet and the sun in her belly.

Remember our calculations…based on Luke and independent Jewish records…calculations that place Jesus’ birth around September seven…3 BC?

And if what John describes in Revelation is a description
of a famous real astrological event…then instead of the 7th…just maybe the eleventh of September was
the exact date of Jesus birth.

And what about the star of Bethlehem

Lets read Matthews version of the story


Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked “where is he who is born King of the Jews?
We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

After they’d listened to what Herod had to say, the Magi went on their way and the star they’d seen in the east
went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

On coming to the house they saw the child with his mother Mary…and they bowed down and worshipped him…
and presented him with gifts.

The star came to rest…over Bethlehem.

Visit slide (
[1] And here reproduced electronically according to scientific method…we can see a faint image of where [2] Jupiter was
that very night.

And my friends… this isn’t just any view of the night sky.
It’s the view from Jerusalem…where the Magi spoke to
King Herod…

Viewed from Jerusalem[3] Jupiter is due south and lies right over Bethlehem.

When the Magi paid their visit to the child Jesus…
we now know from the modern science of astronomy
the planet Jupiter reached the full extent of its retrograde motion… and came to rest…that means it appeared to stop

right over Bethlehem… on the 25th of December in 2BC…

But can you see …what’s just above the horizon?
On the  25th of December in the year 2 BC…the Southern Cross… has popped over the horizon for just a few days.

what completely amazes me…is that today
you can no longer see the Southern Cross from Jerusalem That’s because our solar system is moving…
in our galaxy the Milky Way.

But two thousand years ago… you could see it.

What strikes my friend Professor Tallon is…not only does the Southern Cross pin-point…precisely at the horizon…
the town of Bethlehem

But also as viewed from Jerusalem…is the figure of the cross. In an email Jeff wrote me…that to him this means… ‘The cross and the cradle were inseparable.’
And ‘For all these things to be true’…says this respected physicist ‘the guiding signs to the Christ…
would have been laid down in the motion
of the planets and the stars…from the beginning of creation!!’

Crucifixion slide
I leave you with this…

Some 500 years before Jesus’ birth
the book of Daniel tells foretells that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem and be “cut off”. The writer is very specific.

Slide with words
Daniel 9:24-26
“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem… until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes…there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ … After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.

The people of the ruler who is to come… will destroy the city and the sanctuary….

Blank slide
From the time of the command to rebuild Jerusalem[1] to the coming of the Messiah… there were to be 69 sabbatical years.
That period ended
[2] to the day…on the 30th of March 33 AD, the day we established last week…by the modern science of astronomy…as the actual date of Jesus crucifixion.

Nativity slide
So on Christmas morning…whether you’re a true believer or a skeptic…you’d have to agree that some awesome conclusions seem unavoidable.

And if you are yet to believe in God… I hope you will be left this morning wondering…
just who is this man, compelling in his authority and his humanity

Who is this man…in whom our understanding of God
and physical history seem to converge.
Just possibly… he is the Word become flesh,
Lord of the cosmos, the hope of all humankind,
God becoming human… in time and space.

[1] Artaxerxes to Nehemiah on 1 Nisan (4 March) 444 BC (see Neh 2:1).
[2] Count forward 483 (i.e. 69x7) years of 360 days (see Rev. 11:3).

Sunday, 15 December 2013

When heavenly bodies come in handy

Advent 3 year A Sermon

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so the mountains would quake at your presence—Come down…come O come Emmanuel… come down…

and be with us

We begin today with Isaiah’s mind bending vision...
…the tearing of the very fabric of reality… as we think we know it……….

 the breaking in of God to time and space.

At this time of year we celebrate the coming of God’s future toward us…God’s self-revelation… in birth of Jesus…
The season of Advent…is all about what’s coming

And we listen once again to Isaiah’s powerful plea…
that God, ‘would tear open the heavens and come down…
for the faithful are waiting…’
Reflecting his trust in God’s faithfulness and

in God’s freedom
to act outside the limitations of time and space…

Jesus baptism slide
And our Christian faith stands fast…doesn’t it…
on the conviction God did act in time and space…
in the conception and birth…and in the life and teaching of Jesus

 the very Word of God…capital W…
chose to be subject to frailty and death…
in solidarity with all creation…

Why? Not only to show us how much we’re loved
but how to live…for the well-being of all Creation.

And our faith stands fast on the assurance that Jesus’ death was not the end 
of the story…
The resurrection…the appearing of Jesus to many following the crucifixion…
signals the advent of our future…
So we can always view the future in hope… God’s coming …God’s breaking in…
 to time and space
is the fundamental revelation of the Gospels… [pause]

But when our cynical non-Christian friends… dismiss Jesus’ story as irrelevant for
 today or a myth…how can we be confident in the Gospel recordin Matthew
Mark, Luke and John…How do we know these writings have any historic 
validity…written as they were
 almost two thousand years ago…

Well, I’m here to tell you today... we have much to learn from the Gospel record
That these ancient biographies …simply can’t be discarded in such an ignorant way. 
For the next two Sunday’s I’m going to explain why we can rationally trust…
in the historicity of these ancient texts. [pause]

Jesus birth slide
The orthodox Christian view…is that the birth of Jesus…
is the very hinge of history…the before and the after… the division of our calendar…

into BC and AD.

And within this lies a profound claim. But, can it actually be substantiated? 

Certainly the secular world doesn’t think so. Even in the church some have abandoned 
the idea that God became human… and walked among us.

Yet… there are many…even learned scientists
who believe there’s enough evidence…
to allow us to put a lot of faith in the Gospel record. Faith to see us right though 

Advent and beyond…into 2014…
 as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Gospel
in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Tallon slide
A friend of mine, Professor Jeff Tallon of Victoria University was awarded the 
Rutherford medal for his work in physics… and this year jointly awarded the 
inaugural Prime Minister's Science Prize for outstanding achievement in science.
This companion of the New Zealand 
order of merit took over the pulpit in our church on day…to offer his own scientific understanding of the truth of the Gospels.

Jeff expresses great sadness over media coverage given to skeptics when Christians are about the celebrate the birth of Jesus …particularly people who claim Christmas 
was founded on a pagan feast…and that there were no Magi,
that there was no slaughter of infants…and Jesus never born Bethlehem.

It disturbs him the public is constantly told…stories of Jesus birth are historically
 inconsistent fables…just myths…
that developed among early believers… years after the events happened.

As a scientist…Jeff’s sadness comes from a very real conviction that everything he’s studied…of the events around Jesus birth… confirms an underlying objective reality…
and fills him the deepest sense of the sacred and Divine.

In fact…what Jeff and other scientist have discovered
is that the skeptics view…is the one rooted in ignorance and mis-information. 

That’s a strong claim isn’t it?

But I find Professor Tallon’s evidence… not only fascinating but reassuring…

that we we must always approach the Gospel stories with an open mind…
because our understanding… 
can only ever be… partial and incomplete.

Today technological advances can help resolve apparent difficulties… 

so even the most hardened skeptics
have to wonder…just who was the child Jesus,
born at Bethlehem in Judea?
Today with Jeff’s permission…I’m going to present what we now know from historic 
research and the science of astronomy …wonderful information… to share with your
and cynical friends… and even to strengthen your own faith.

First… all that Pagan Feast stuff…is rubbish.

Modern astronomy slide
Why? Because today through the science of astronomy
we can actually reproduce… where the stars and constellations were…

at any given time in history

When scientist’s like Jeffrey Tallon search for the most likely contender for the Bethlehem star…they actually do find a star… that ‘stood over Bethlehem’… when viewed 

from Jerusalem looking south… just as Matthew’s gospel tells it.

A star… astronomers say…that reached its zenith and the full extent of its

 retrograde motion…precisely on the 25th
of December. And what’s even more exciting is…
in that very year…the Jewish feast of Hanukkah
fell on twenty five December. So, the actual date
we celebrate Christmas has nothing to do with a pagan feast

Dessert slide
It’s more likely to be… the day the Magi arrived…
having crossed the vast desert to the east…to visit the new Jewish King the stars had predicted…and they found Jesus …not in the stable where he was born…but just 

as the Gospel of Matthew describes…at the family home…fifteen months or so 
after Jesus’ birth …
when Jesus was a toddler…a child…as Matthew says.

So when we approach Jesus birth as an historical event…
when we overcome our concern…about the so-called mythology surrounding it…
we discover the world has a lot to learn…

Another uninformed criticism… of the historic reliability of the Gospels
is that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn’t try to keep the eyewitness stories 
of Jesus’ life in the order they happened…Chronological consistency has always
 been an important criteria
for determining the reliability of scripture.

But if the Gospel accounts are consistent
with independent scientific observation
of what occurred…we can be more confident in the gospel record…

and strengthen our faith as well. [pause]

Because they followed the movement of the stars…
the Magi were obviously astronomers and astrologists… … and it was their science…

that led them to an encounter with Jesus…and our science of astronomy points to the
 visit of the Magi… exactly when we celebrate Christmas.

Crucifixion slide
And Professor Tallon adds…there’s another fascinating way to check the 

accuracy of the biblical record
and that’s to work backwards to the date of Jesus’ birth
from Jesus crucifixion.

We can do this…by putting three events together
recorded independently of the Gospel witness…
by Roman and Jewish historians living in the first century.

The first event is Pilate’s Procuratorship of Judea…
between 26 and 36 AD. We know John began baptizing during Pilate’s time in office…

so that narrows the beginning of Jesus’ ministry down to 29 or 30 AD.

And we know the trial of Jesus had to be after 31 AD…
because that’s when Pilate executed
his anti-Semitic mentor, Sejanus, to appease the Jews

And we know Jesus death had to be before 34 AD
because that’s the latest possible date for Paul’s conversion.

How do we know this about Paul’s conversion?
Well, the book of Acts tells us… after 18 months in Corinth, Paul was

 indicted under Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia.

An existing archeological inscription…says Gallio was proconsul only between January 
and August 52 AD. So, Paul had to leave for Corinth no later than 50AD. And Paul’s letter 
to the Galatians tells us…this was seventeen years after his conversion…and that brings 
us right back to…
wait for it…late 33 or early 34 AD…a year after Jesus’ trial.

So all these independent events… help us verify the time of  Jesus’ trial… and all those 
events recorded in Roman and Jewish records… can be found in Luke’s gospel too…

Moon slide
Finally we return to our modern science of astronomy
to settle the date with certainty.
Celestial bodies…sometimes come in very handy.

Did you know the Jewish Passover always occurs
on the full moon closest to the spring equinox? And since Jesus was crucified…

on the day the Passover meal began… we know there will have been… 
a full moon rising.

Josephus…the 1st century Jewish historian…
recorded that Jesus was crucified on fourteen Nisan
in the Hebrew calendar.
John’s gospel tells us it was a Friday.
And we know 14 Nisan only fell on a Friday
in the year 33 AD.

Professor Tallon’s final blow to the skeptics…
relates to Peter’s speech at Pentecost only seven weeks after the Resurrection… 

Recalling the crucifixion…
Peter quotes the prophet Joel

Moon slide with words
‘The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon into blood before
 the day of the Lord comes.’ [pause]

On the evening Jesus was crucified
to begin the Passover meal…the head of every Jewish household

 would have looked toward the rising moon. And what they saw that day on 14 Nisan…
what the science of astronomy tells us they saw

was the moon…rising in eclipse
lying fully in the Earth’s shadow… and blood red…
for half an hour.  [pause]

Blank moon slide
Earlier at mid-day…for around three hours
the sun… was darkened.

Joel’s prophetic vision…was given substance
on the very day of Jesus’ crucifixion…14 Nisan
in the Hebrew calendar…our April 3rd…33 AD. [pause]

So… we’ve established a reasonable and rational time frame for Jesus’ public
ministry and execution…

Working backwards from this…we can look again
at the accuracy of gospel stories of Jesus birth
Take for example… Matthew’s record of Herod’s slaughter of infants…
to prevent a threat to his throne.

Well… Josephus records… that right before Herod died …
he had two Rabbi’s burned alive… and on ‘that same night … there was 

an eclipse of the moon’.

Today we know on the 9th of January 1 BC
the moon was in total eclipse…and eighteen days later Herod died

poised to perpetrate another massacre… of infants
Josephus compares it to the slaughter in Bethlehem. Herod’s motive…
so ‘there would be weeping in Israel when he died

Only a month before Herod died…the Magi had said good-by to him from

his palace in Jerusalem…
where he’d pointed them toward Bethlehem…under the star that had

reached the zenith of its retrograde motion.
just as Matthew’s gospel says,

And remember that day was the beginning of Hanukkah
the Jewish holiday when gifts are always exchanged. [pause]

Next week we’ll explore just what the night sky looked like that year as the 
Magi traveled to meet the new born king of the Jews… they read about…in the stars.

Tallon slide
Professor Tallon is always keen reminds us that in the end
we come to God through faith…not logic.
And I heard his voice break as he came to the end of his talk saying

And in faith before this Jesus
I surrender all my intellectual pride
and bow the knees of my heart and my mind
to him in worship…’

Let us do the same as we approach the table of our Lord.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Where is your allegiance?

Advent 2 year A Sermon Isaiah 11:1-11 and Mark 1

Each year on the second Sunday of Advent…as we prepare the way for celebrating the birth of Jesus…
we remember his baptism… which culminates
with nothing less… than the endorsement of God.

Word slide
This is my son…the Beloved.

It’s a sentence…from Psalm 2:7…
which everyone listening would know
gives approval to a liberating king…
in the line of David.

And in Mark’s gospel…affirms God’s blessing
for the coming reign of Jesus the Christ.

And if we’re in doubt about what God ordained kings are like…1st century Jews … were certainly in no doubt.

The Psalms… which they’d all memorised as children… give this mandate to a Davidic king:

Slide words
Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice.
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
    the hills… the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;

only justice and fairness… practised by God’s anointed king… will ensure the permanence of the house of David.

Blank slide
And the gospeller Mark introduces his story of Jesus reign with a powerful poetic quote from the prophet Isaiah…expressing a deep longing for the well-being of all creation
to come when the true king finally rules in wisdom...

Slide words
Prepare the way of the Lord…make his paths straight…

What meaning does God breathe into this passage for you?        …for us…here at the ends of the earth…

Prepare the way of the Lord…make his paths straight …make straight his paths in the wilderness.

If God is speaking to us through this passage…
how are we doing? In preparing the way? [pause]

Blank slide
We claim allegiance to the baby Jesus…
n the carols we sing…as Christmas approaches
but do we live like we really mean it?

Every December we prepare to celebrate and tell the story of the birth of our Lord …but how well…
do we prepare the ground for the good news he brings
for all the earth! [pause]

You see how we prepare for Jesus in how we live our lives
…is a powerful clue…to where our allegiance really lies.

Word slide
1. the loyalty of a citizen to his or her government or of a subject to his or her sovereign.
2. loyalty or devotion to some person, group, cause, or the like.

1. treason. 2. treachery.   [pause]

Blank slide
We don’t much like absolutes today…do we…
but I believe in one absolute…at least for those
who would call themselves Christian

Allegiance to Jesus…and by that I mean…
exclusive and total dedication to the way of life he models for us.

From the first disciples to us sitting here today…
allegiance to Jesus changes everything
it changes the way the apostolic church relates to Caesar as King and Lord of the Empire.

It changes the relationship to money and possessions as Jesus’ followers learn to share everything in common.

And allegiance to Jesus… changes the way they relate to each other…the concepts of hierarchy and special entitlement… are deconstructed by the early Christians

To live the Christian life in community… there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female, … we are all one in Christ Jesus.

To pledge allegiance to Jesus…means being a prophetic community… called by Christ to imitate him…
to reject violence… and stand up to the powerful…
by speaking the truth… and taking the consequences.  
A community that is subversive of Empire…
not subservient.  Or so it’s supposed to be… [pause]

But sadly after the third century things changed as the church grew in power…the good news Jesus proclaimed for all people…was relegated to the dusty shelves labelled… politically impractical. Oh sure a few fled to the desserts and monasteries to keep the flam alive, but

From the 3rd to the 15th century…when the church had all the power… and became an Empire in its own right...
the message of Jesus’ Gospel was all but forgotten.

And only those who could read would know it first hand
and then only those who could read Latin or Greek.

But thankfully God can work for good in any rotten human situation… and in the 16th century the gospel was translated into the language of the common people along with the rest of the Bible…

suddenly the Church could no longer control spread of the good news…that Jesus came to bring this message…the Word of God incarnate…
we are all equally loved by God …we’re to share the great resources of God’s good creation…

to do that …we’re to live simply…break down the barriers that divide, empower women and slaves…
be gracious to foreigners… love your enemy…make peace…

the prophets had tried in their way to speak this truth to power…but they’d were rejected

This gospel…this message…was as subversive of the church… as was of Empires…

and during the reign of Henry the eighth
suddenly Christians were reforming everything

a copy of the English Bible was distributed to every parish church in England. And the gospel contained in this Bible… was subversive

people started doubting whether King Henry
was God’s appointed and divinely ordained ruler…as he claimed after all.

common people began to demand a fair share of the national wealth…
many of the gentry were terrified of this …and guess what happened?   [pause]

In 1543…the powers that be… actually made it illegal for women and common folk…to read the Bible!

So subversive was its gospel message…only gentlemen and clergy… would be allowed to read it…it sounds ridiculous but it’s true! [pause]

But things have changed haven’t they… the gospel of Jesus has been carried to the end of the world
And today as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth
beside our beautiful lake…you and I can read the gospel in complete freedom…

You and I can let the light of the gospel shine
on the way we live our lives
You and I can open our lives to its scrutiny
you and I can allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ
to critique our lives.

We can…but do we subject ourselves to Jesus gospel
in allegiance to him? Are we comfortable to publically claim allegiance to Jesus when in our community resources are not shared and many fail to earn a living wage…

As people who claim total allegiance to Jesus and the good news he preached…
do we demand our prophetic right…
speak the truth to governments and councils
to allow the gospel of Jesus to critique…
how wealth is distributed, creation is abused and justice denied?

Or have we all but forgotten the gospel Jesus proclaimed …and all along claiming allegiance to him…

If we have forgotten…if there is a mismatch between what we say and what we do…then where can we even begin to prepare the way for Jesus reign and for God’s will to be done on earth? [pause]

Well…we can begin by asking ourselves Gospel questions

Is anyone excluded from God’s love?
What does mercy look like when it’s practised?
What is fair, what is kind, what is just?
What would a church committed to the Gospel look like, what would a nation look like…

what would the world look like…in light of the good news brought by the one whose birth we prepare
to celebrate this Christmas?

In 2014, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Gospel’s arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand…
the Good News…that God loves everyone…
high born and low born, chiefs and slaves, infants and ancients, farm owners shepherds and shearers…
we are all God’s children…
and that changes our everything and our relationship to every single creature God has created!

But don’t take my word for it.

I challenge you…right now…to read your Gospels over the summer…read the good news…Matthew Mark Luke and John…and let the gospel shine a light on your life.

Hear how John warns his listeners…their sense of entitlement as God’s special people counts for nothing … because a new beginning has come into the world in Jesus.

In Matthew… hear that what actually counts…
is the “good fruit” of a sustainable society.

word slide

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Blank slide
Understand how Luke the gentile story teller…
reminds us how any other claim is phony
and can only end badly.
Read how Jesus doesn’t simply say believe in me…but

Word slide
take up your cross and follow me’.

And if our allegiance is to Jesus Christ…
the one who reveals God’s will for us…
the one whose coming we prepare for this Christmas…

if our allegiance to Jesus is total
if our surrender to his way absolute…
then everything about the way we live and even some of the things we believe

must be open to change… by him…

Blank slide
Prepare the way for the Lord…
make straight paths for him

Now as Lucy sings let us bring our Christmas cards w ith our prayers and our longings for God’s will to be done on earth

to decorate our Christmas tree together. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

What do we really need?

Pentecost 27 year C Sermon 13 

Title slide
When Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray
he identifies God as our loving father
who cares about our basic needs

And most of us who claim to follow Christ…
would agree that everyone deserves to have their basic needs met… simply because they’re a child of God…

But we wouldn’t necessarily agree
what those basic needs are…and sometimes in our consumer culture…it’s hard to tell the difference between our wants and our needs…isn’t it?

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Especially when we’re constantly bombarded
with attractive… delicious… possibilities for purchase and acquisition…on television and in magazines
and on the internet.

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Without some guidelines… we are likely to become confused about the difference between our wants and our needs. Like little children at the checkout in New World…who think a lolly is essential to their very survival. [pause]

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Now I want you write down three to five things… that you think …are basic human needs….Again I’m not going to ask you to share these with anyone else.
Your list is for your eyes only.

They write. I wait.

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I guess one way to tell the difference between needs and wants … is whether we would die without something.

I’ll give you an example…

Some people think sex… is a basic human need…
yet I can assure you that no one in the history of the world …has ever died… from not having sex.

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I wonder how the list you just wrote…
compares with the needs identified in the Lord’s prayer

when we pray for God’s will to be done in our own lives…
just what is God’s will…what does God think…are our basic needs As our creator… you’d imagine our creator would know

If Jesus is the one who reveals God’s will to us…
We learn three things from the prayer he teaches us to pray
Three things about our most basic needs
from God’s perspective

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1. daily bread…daily sustenance and
2. forgiveness and deliverance from evil.

And 3 ….
we learn in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray
that the way God meets our needs…
is directly related to the way we…
are to meet the needs of others.

As Jesus followers… we’re to meet the needs of others…
for bread and forgiveness…in a way…that reflects God’s generosity and mercy… toward us

Feed the five thousand…forgive the crucifiers…
That’s what it means to be a disciple…a follower…of Jesus
Does Jesus include a loophole in the prayer for any of us?

So why do we behave as though he does?

None of us denies our need for food…but many of us deny our need to be forgiving…as we are forgiven.

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A couple of weeks ago I preached on the benefits of gratitude …for our emotional… physical… and spiritual health.
And remember…not only is the feeling of gratitude
good for you ….but expressing it is even better for you.
Some of you may have tried this out.

Well today I’m telling you…
human beings not only need to feel gratitude
but as it says in the Lord’s prayer
we need to forgive…and be forgiven.

Why… because God knows that unforgiveness is lethal…
When we refuse to  forgive it’s like drinking a bottle of poison and expecting the other person to die…

Have you ever known anyone who was so consumed with bitterness and resentment …
it ate away their entire enjoyment of life…
well that’s what I’m talking about. God knows that un-forgiveness destroys the one who refuses to forgive
whether an individual or a nation

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened…or minimise it…or say it was ok…
in fact forgiveness is not an emotion…
forgiveness… is a decision

Like deciding to cut through a heavy chain…
between you and the person you need to forgive…
releasing them from what they owe you…That’s why in some translations of the Lord’s prayer… sin is translated as debt!!!

Of course God is the main one…
from whom we need forgiveness …
and our gracious God has shown us on the cross…
just how much we are forgiven and how much it cost.

We can’t control whether another person forgives us …sometimes we just have to live with the
uncomfortable consequences of our actions or
their stubbornness.

But God has wiped our debt on the Cross
and asks us to do the same for others…

So why do we pray this prayer week after week and continue to behave as though it doesn’t really apply to how we live?

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Feed and forgive and deliver people from evil as you have been fed and forgiven and delivered! What do you think
do justice love mercy and walk humbly with your God means?

How dare we pray give us this day our daily bread and then refuse to share what we have… so everyone can have enough…in our community and in our nation and in our world. And do we demand our politicians do the same?

Remember what we’ve learned…
feeding and forgiving are actually essential…
for our own wellbeing…not just the wellbeing of others…

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So now some time to answer the other two questions on the inside of our bulletin.

Who do I need to feed as I have been fed?

Who do I need to forgive as I have been forgiven?

[Wait while they write]

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Do we really think God’s kingdom can come…
and God’s will be done on earth
if his children refuse to be as generous and forgiving
of their brothers and sisters…

as is their father in heaven?