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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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. .

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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?

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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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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By your endurance… you will gain life.

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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.