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?

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

Child slide
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]

Writing slide with text
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.

Writing slide without text
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.

Jesus slide
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

Slide words
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.

Jesus slide
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?

Word slide
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…

Hand slide with words
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]

Jesus in tallit slide
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?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Another Godly experiment Luke 21:5-19

Pentecost 25 year C Sermon 
Jesus disciples… were in awe… of the grandeur and riches of the Temple. But Jesus warns them… 
As for this magnificent Temple you see here…the time will come when not one stone will be left on another;
every one of them will be thrown down

and before all this…they’ll seize you and persecute you…
all on account of my name. And you will bear testimony to me but make up your minds…not to prepare your defense in advance

Text slide
for I’ll give you words… and wisdom…
none of your opponents can withstand or contradict.

This magnificent Temple will fall…and you’ll face great trials …but don’t be anxious about this…
because you’ll know what to do… I will have told you.[pause]

On Jesus’ last journey… he doesn’t fudge the future …
there’s serious trouble ahead for his followers…
but I’ll give you what you need so you don’t have to worry.

Yeah right some of them would have mumbled.

Blank slide
Together last week… we did a Godly experiment in the relationship between gratitude and wellbeing. Today we’re going to do another Godly experiment…this one…
aimed at reducing our worry and anxiety…just as Jesus tried to help his disciples with theirs
there in the shadow of Herod’s Temple.

Writing slide
On the inside cover of your order of service today you will find this question: How anxious do you get about
what others think about you or how that might hurt you?

Now answer this by circling a number from 1-5… where 1 is very anxious… and 5 is…
I don’t care what people might think of me or do to me.
OK now think about the question and circle a number…this is private to you.

[pause while they write]

Now normally worry and anxiety…are generated by fear …aren’t they…

Fence slide
And these emotions aren’t bad in themselves…
because fear can be helpful when it keeps us out of danger… it’s wired into us by our creator for our survival

It’s healthy to fear a growling dog when you see one and
stay away from it…it’s healthy to fear what happens when you drink poison…this keeps you from drinking poison…
it’s a good idea to fear what happens if you step on a bee barefoot.

But sometimes our fears become irrational don’t they…
like when we imagine consequences… much worse
than the reality ever could be…

If this child were paralysed with fear…
when she sees a bee on a flower on the other side of the fence … we’d probably try to help her understand…
why her fear is irrational… wouldn’t we.

Word slide
So fear can be helpful and fear can be irrational and unhelpful

When we experience traumatic events in childhood
we can continue to respond with fear… when
similar circumstances arise later on in life…
even if we aren’t a vulnerable child any more.

Bus slide
When I was 13…I was bullied on the school bus on the way home...two or three primary schools had come together in our new intermediate school…and one girl from my old school decided she didn’t like me any more and hoped no one else would too. .

Petition slide
She created a petition which listed all my faults including the fact that I’d said God was my friend…and got some of the kids I thought were my friends to sign it. And it got delivered on the bus on the way home…needless to say I was crushed… but my mother…rang her mother…the event had long term implications because the bullying didn’t stop…I changed classes…etc etc.

Well…once in television while I was producing fair go and once in the national office of the PCANZ and once during my ministry here..very similar circumstances occurred…only I was an adult wasn’t I?

Writing slide
Now I’ve had some practise with this…and by the time I came to Wanaka I’d long learned …
that to overcome an irrational fear reaction…
I have to stand back from what’s happened and see the difference … between what happened then… and what’s happening today. Sometimes I write this down…or even draw pictures of it so I can see the difference.

Drawing it shows me clearly… how old I am now…
and what I know about myself today…
and how much better I can take care of myself today.

The same kind of irrational fears can happen to us when we’re spiritually immature…and we can be spiritually immature
at 13 or 80…if our faith is new…for example…
and hasn’t yet been tested by doubt and temptation and learning.

When we’re spiritually immature… our faith
needs to be strengthened by experience with God
you might say we need to grow up in our faith.

Recently I’ve been wrestling with… how to help a man from outside our church…who’s new to the faith …Wanaka’s a small community and people do come to me for support like this

Well this man is wracked by the anxiety his workmates are gossiping about him and putting him down behind his back.
He’s constantly turning this over in his mind…worrying about how he might respond to them…whether he should even turn up at work Obsessing out loud over what to say to them… and what might be wrong with him because it bothers him so much.

And yes some of this man’s workmates are downright mean!
So this man comes to me for spiritual support. 
His understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus
is very new… but his desire to grow closer to God is very sincere.

Now during my quiet time with God recently…there I was
asking to be open to God’s guidance…hoping to discover some way to help this man lay down his anxiety… at Jesus feet.

Suddenly I was reminded of how this same sometimes irrational and obsessive anxiety used to be a problem in my own life…and at this point God prompted me to ask myself

Jesus slide
How did Jesus teach you to respond when other people were having a go at you Diane…or behaving badly around you?

What came to mind…were the fifth and sixth chapters of the book of Matthew cam immediately to  mind…beginning with Jesus’ sermon on the mount…

Text slide
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Blank Jesus slide
And then it came to me…and I’d never seen it this way before…as a following of Jesus…I already know what my response will be when I’m faced with hatred or ridicule or harsh criticism…
I don’t have to plot and plan my reaction to other people
and I don’t have to be afraid of what their judgment might mean for me…

because I’ve decided to be a follower of Jesus’ way…
I already know what I will do…or at least
what I’ll do my best… with God’s help… to do.

I will be gracious as God is gracious. I will be merciful as God is merciful…I will forgive as God has forgiven me… I will love my enemies…

Or at least I will try with the help of God…and I already know it’s not going to be easy

Even when someone is threatening my very survival…my job …my income

if I am committed to following Jesus… first and foremost…
no one can threaten my identity or my self-esteem
Even though they threaten my body and my life
they can’t destroy the life of Christ in me…

And this is what I felt guided to say to the man I was trying to help.

Jesus tree slide
So listen again… to Jesus words to his disciples
that day in the shadow of the Temple… when they are anxious and afraid of the terrible persecution to come…

Text slide
So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

Text slide
By your endurance… you will gain life.

Blank Jesus tree slide
There’s a sense in which Jesus is trying to help his disciples mature as his followers. They don’t have to plan their defence because they already know from his teaching how to respond.
What they don’t know is that the Holy Spirit will come to testify to Jesus in them as well.  [pause]

How shall they live…. in the face of all that threatens them…

They shall live as peacemakers
they shall live as the children of God

So the next time you feel anxious about what other people are thinking or how other people might hurt you…

I want you to remember… that Jesus has already revealed
what your response is to be.
You don’t have to be anxious about that any more. Yes it might hurt…but you already know what to do.

And remember Jesus words

All this…just gives you an opportunity to testify
into the circumstances of your own life.

Experiment in Gratitude October 27, 2013

Pentecost 24 year C Sermon 
Everybody got their order of service
and something to write with…raise your hand if you didn’t.

Ok before the service started I got you to circle how happy you felt at that time…

As a congregation we’ve done some very hard work over the past 23 weeks on the book of Revelation. So we need a little break…Last week Tom’s wonderful testimony
Today we’re going to do a Godly experiment
in which everyone can participate…

Here’ how we’re going to start…

Assignment slide
I want you to take five minutes to write a paragraph about someone who had an incredibly positive impact on your life. You won’t have to talk about it or share it with anyone…

I just want you to write.  I’m going to do the same.

They write for five minutes

Now have a look at some other people
did the same experiment.

Look at film

All the people reported some increase in happiness after that exercise. But those who expressed their gratitude outloud on the phone reported a bigger increase in happiness and the person who came in feeling the least happy reported four times more happiness after the experiment.

Blank writing slide
Scientists have found that exercises like this…that stir up feelings of gratitude actually elevate the human hormone serotonin –

that’s the hormone which is released into the blood naturally to help us deal with every day stress without falling apart.

Some people have more and some less serotonin – and when serotonin production gets really low- people can get clinically depressed.

Well isn’t it interesting that the feeling of gratitude seems to trigger the release of serotonin… sometimes even enough to
reduce physical pain.

Interesting isn’t it - because gratitude by its very nature distracts us from the negative stuff that’s going on

Now we all know that sometimes people…
even the people we love the most… let us down…

When this happens we don’t feel grateful to them at all
We don’t feel grateful to them for anything…in fact we feel irritated and frustrated and disappointed with them…
Just as psalm 118 says we can’t rely on humans all the time…

So where can we find some gratitude to help restore us a little

That’s right… there’s always one… to whom we can give thanks at any time…and for so very much…but that’s really only possible if we have faith isn’t it…

Listen again to the place of  thanksgiving in our gospel story for today…

10 Leppers slide
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, Jesus encountered ten men with leprosy…

Because they were considered unclean and Jesus was a rabbi they stood at a distance and shouted out to him
“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they walked away they were cleansed.

But one man, when he saw he was healed, came back to Jesus.

And praising God in a loud voice… he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and this man was a Samaritan – by definition an unclean foreigner.

Jesus slide
And Jesus asked him, “Weren’t all ten of you cleansed? Where are the other nine?

Text slide
Has no one returned to give thanks to God except this foreigner? Then he said to him, “Rise and go;
your faith has made you well.

Your faith has made you well

Now it strikes me…that here Jesus is expressing two really important Christian spiritual principles…

Text slide with underlining
One – there’s a connection between giving thanks…and faith…And Two
there’s a connection between giving thanks… and wellness. Your faith has made you well!!!

Notice Jesus didn’t say your faith has made you clean – or healed your terrible skin disease…which is why he sent the healed men back to the priests…for the ritual of washing to enter the temple again…

Leper’s slide
Before they walk away…Jesus doesn’t say anything to the other nine about faith…just
show yourselves to the priests [pause]

Jesus slide
You see…God…the source of all life and goodness …and in this story…Jesus the Word of God… revealed in the flesh
already know there’s a link between gratitude and wellbeing … the link scientists in the 21st century are studying today.

God… who created the physics and chemistry of our brains and hormones…and our life-saving responses to danger and injustice like fear and anger…well…God knows every piece of the human puzzle. Especially our vulnerability to emotional and physical illness – we are not built to last here in this lifetime….

And God knows that one of the missing pieces in the human puzzle… can be gratitude…
And very often… we need to be reminded to feel it.

Twenty nine times… in the scriptures of the old and new testaments … we’re exhorted to give thanks to God….
Often with these words.

Text slide
Give thanks to God… for God is good,
God’s love endures forever…

Paul tells the earliest followers of Jesus in Thessalonians

Text slide
give thanks in all circumstances.
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Blank Jesus slide
But think about this for a minute…
atheists…people who simply don’t believe there is a God… Well, they’ve got no God to be grateful to…

and if all the people in their lives let them down…
how are they going to tap into that wonderful source of life and healing that gratitude brings?

When people let them down…they come to an emotional dead end… when they’re feeling rock bottom
and can’t even look out at the lake and the mountains
and say thank you… God for making this beautiful place …thank you God…I’m alive…Thank you God…
I can see and hear and touch…

But we can tap into… the spring of wellbeing that comes expressing gratitude through faith.

As Paul writes to Philippians
Text slide
The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving …present your requests to God.
And when you do that…Paul says…
Text slide
the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus