Only Grace, Not Circumcision

Message: only grace is needed, not circumcision or any other symbols, based on Galatians 6:1-18.

Introduction 

Thinking about circumcision made me think of the symbols we all carry around:

  • Signet ring – bears my initials, given to me by my parents.
  • Wedding ring – bears both our initials and wedding date (c.f. ‘lady in the lake’ murder story – google it).
  • Help for Heroes band – anyone can wear (for only £2!), but I used to be in the RAF.
  • My Watch – not really symbolic, but indicates responsibilities.
  • My cross – I wear it because I belong to Jesus Christ (not as a good-luck charm).

Exegesis: Galatians 6 

This is the final chapter of the letter that is all about GRACE:

  • Bear each other’s burdens to obey the law (vv1-2).
  • Judge yourself – beware prideful comparisons (vv3-5).
  • Support Christian teachers (missionaries & minsters) – in the UK! (v6).
  • God can’t be fooled, you reap what you sow (vv7-8).
  • Do good to all, all your life, for God’s reward! (v9).
  • Especially do this for you Brothers & Sisters in the faith (v10).
  • This is personal!  Personal faith is a recurrent theme for Paul (c.f. his Jewishness). (V11).
  • The circumcisers focus on outward things so they can fit in; even they don’t obey the law they say they are promoting! (vv12-13). 
  • Paul’s focus is the cross of Christ that killed the old person of sin and enables the inner transformation to the new person (vv14-15).
  • Paul is circumcised and he also has other scars to prove his loyalty to Christ! (v17).
  • In the end it’s all about Grace – that’s the best Paul can wish them (v18).

Application

I think that there are two key verses here.

  • “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  (NIV, v7).
    • This is a warning to those in Christ who might abuse God’s grace.
    • We can’t ignore God’s instructions or neglect his Word and expect to profit.
    • In God’s universe there are consequences for every action.
  • “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (NIV, v15).
    • I don’t think that Paul is deriding his circumcision (although it’s just one of many scars on his body).
    • But it only an outer symbol of an inner conviction – a new relationship with God that produces a new lifestyle in response.
    • Similarly, there is nothing wrong with wedding rings, but imagine that I was a lousy, abusive or unfaithful husband; then the ring would just be a reminder of my failure.
    • Worse, for those who know the truth – and God knows everything – the ring is then a mockery of everything it is supposed to be. 
    • Grace is the key to this change – we call it ‘salvation’ – that unlocks the new person.
    • Even now that we are saved, we need Grace to keep us going without backsliding or going stale, or becoming smug and satisfied with outer respectability.

Conclusion

Therefore I hope that we will never point to mere symbols to justify ourselves.  Instead I wish us all the very best, God’s Grace, to help us in our ongoing inner transformation and matching outer life style: our new life in Christ.

Keeping it Simple

A simple message: God gives simply and gives simplicity, based on 2 Kings 5.

Scripture

Weve just heard a great story of the Old Testament.  The purpose of the story is to hear a powerful and feared man, a “godless foreigner”, say: there is a real prophet in Israel.

It is also a comedy, a folktale, for poor folk, that pokes fun at the rich and powerful.  There are two Kings and a great general, Naaman, but they don’t achieve much and look foolish.  Even God’s prophet doesn’t do much.  It’s the three servants, unnamed, simple people, one a child, who make things happen.

This story contains so much but we will focus on only one idea.

A Simple Task

The formula, or presciption, was simple. A child could understand it. “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan and you will be made clean.” But the person given this simple task was not a simple man.  His power and reputation mean nothing, and his great riches are useless.  He drives off in a huff, like an angry teenager!

Yet when he does as he is told he is completely healed physically, and he realises the truth about God.  Verse 15: “Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel’.”  

Application

Today, we are rich and powerful, like Naaman.  Also, like him, we got our wealth and power by conquering and taking from others.  God will punish the rich for their sins and exalt the poor.

We can all be saved by confessing our sins to Jesus Christ and surrendering to him.  Many people will be too clever, too rich or too proud to do this.  This should not be a surprise to us – it has always been this way!

We however, can give thanks that we are not clever or sophisticated, we have few possessions and we have to depend on others to look after us.  In our simple lives we have few things to get in the way of accepting God’s simple grace.

Conclusion

We can take pride in the cross of Christ – we don’t have to be clever or great to be healed (saved) from sin/mortality, in fact in helps if we are not!

In Desperate Need

A story of endurance and faith in desperate times, based on 1 Kings 17:8-24.

The Story

Elijah the prophet has told Ahab the wicked King that there will be no rain or dew in Israel, because “Ahab … did more to arouse the anger of the Lord … than did all the kings of Israel before him.”  That’s quite an achievement, if you look at the four chapters of murder, idol worship, etc., that his predecessors had been guilty of!

God tells Elijah to go to a foreign (godless) land to lodge with a widow, i.e. a woman with no means of support!  Does Elijah need to learn some humility? or to depend on God?  Elijah finds her and begs (with a stunning lack of sensitivity) for water and bread from her – she replies that she is in a desperate state (v12).

Note that God does not promise a miraculous end to the drought, or even a miraculous but isolated plenty in the place where Elijah is going.  God promises only enough for today, and then the next day, and so on; Elijah and his adopted family can see no way out, they have no security other than God’s promise in the midst of catastrophe.  

However, the situation grows even worse.  The widow’s only son dies and, with him, her only hope of survival after Elijah has gone and into her old age dies too.  Naturally, she is heartbroken and angry with the man of God.  Tragically, she assumes that she is to blame, and that the presence of the man of God has only brought God’s attention to her sins, and divine retribution for them.  Elijah cries out to God in genuine need – at last he has learned to identify and empathize with the plight of the ordinary people, rather than just himself.

Application

The rich, the powerful, the leaders who should be doing God’s will, have led the whole nation into sin.  Big issues are being worked out here, with big consequences. Unfortunately, even God’s prophet, and the innocent, must suffer the consequences. 

Today, we understand natural cause and effect (as opposed to early Old Testament (mis)understanding that God does everything directly).

A Christian Perspective

Jesus’ approach is to draw people to him, not to condemn their sin, but to bring them healing and to know the presence of God.  In Jesus presence we are saved from our sins, no matter how desperate the situation around us. We will be liberated from the consequences of sin in the world around us, as we look ahead, eagerly, to God’s Kingdom on Earth and the next life in heaven, whichever comes first for us.

Grace

A sermon on grace, based on Galatians 1:1-12 and 1:11-24.

Galatians 1:1-9: Grace is Key

Paul’s greets his audience, prays for them and gets straight to business.

  • Vv 1-2.  Paul: an ambassador sent directly by God and Christ – raised from the dead.
  • Vv 3-5.  A (short) prayer for the Galatians (northern Turkey), emphasising Jesus’ sacrifice to save them from their sins and from living a world ruled by ungodly powers.
  • Vv 6-7.  Paul tackles the issue head-on:
    • The Galatians have strayed from the pure Gospel of grace from Christ.
    • They have been distracted by the Jewish tradition that demands the observance of practices such as circumcision, in order to be accepted by God.
    • This is no Gospel – where is the Good News of forgiveness at no cost to us?
    • This is an insult to the sacrifice of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross!
  • Vv 8-9.  Paul issues a ‘double anathema’.  He denounces anyone who would pervert the Gospel, even if they were an angel; perhaps he is reminding his Jewish critics that Satan (the ‘accuser’) was an angel, who seeks to punish us for our sins. 

Galatians 1:10-12: A First-rate Gospel 

Paul makes a plain statement to rebut his critics.

  • He is not a populist seeking favour with an ‘easy’ or second-rate Gospel to please people.
  • The Gospel that Paul preaches comes direct from God himself.

Galatians 1:13-24: Grace is Central

Grace is absolutely central to Paul for very personal reasons.

  • Vv 13-14.  Paul persecuted the church fiercely (inc. murder) driven by his zeal for Judaism.
  • Vv 15-16.  Yet God revealed Jesus to Paul and called him to preach.
  • Vv 17-19.  Paul did not seek by men (even the apostles), but followed God’s instructions.  (He refers to Peter and James – other good Jews who betrayed Jesus, but who were forgiven.)
  • Vv 20-24.  In his previous missionary work Paul did not rely on endorsement by church leaders; rather his totally transformed life and witness spoke for themselves.  

Conclusion

Paul is very passionate about God.  It was always in his nature to be so, but God has personally forgiven Paul’s very personal persecution of God:

‘“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”  (Acts 9:4b-5).

Paul has been forgiven much and therefore loves much (see Luke 7:42b-43 and v47b). 

Today there is a danger that, in a faddy effort to be ‘inclusive’ and encourage ‘diversity’, the church may abuse grace and offer forgiveness to the unrepentant.  However, this appeasement of sin, this twisting of the Gospel, this heresy, should not put us off.

Paul stakes his life on grace: all sinners are accepted by God, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Paul knew that he had sinned much and been forgiven much, and he loved God greatly as a result and lived accordingly.  So should we.

The Cost of Discipleship

Message: when we have a real picture of God, we can understand why discipleship costs. Based on Luke 14:25-33.

Introduction

Today the church often seems to offer a nice, fluffy, cuddly God to people.  A sympathetic, empathetic God of unconditional love.  A God who saves us and loves us and looks after us.  Now there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but it’s only a partial – and hence a biased and unrealistic – picture of God. It’s also an irrational picture of God. 

A Tough, Rational Picture of God

If God is so unconditionally loving then it wouldn’t matter that we were sinners, because God wouldn’t punish us anyway.  Indeed, in this portrait, God is too nice even to mention our shortcomings and selfishness.  We can just carry on doing what we’ve always done and ignore God, who will love and accept us no matter what.  So, rationally, logically, there is no need for forgiveness, no need for the cross and no need for Jesus.  If we offer people an irrational faith, parts of which contradict each other, is it any wonder that sensible people reject it?  Is it any wonder that about 70% of people in the UK believe in God but only 10% regularly come to church?

Fortunately, if anyone reads what Jesus actually said and did, He destroys that silly, childish and sentimental picture of God pretty quickly.  Jesus says tough things to people.  He talks about being disciples.  Hey, that implies discipline – following, obeying, serving – that costs!  Where’s my fluffy God gone?  Actually, Jesus does this quite a lot in all sorts of ways, but in this reading, he speaks explicitly about the cost of following Him. 

Discipleship: Responding to the Real God

So how do we put together these pictures of a loving God with the disciplinarian who demands obedience, sacrifice, service, even the surrender of our lives?  Can we resolve them into one?  Should we even try? 

First of all, I think we should.  Those people who don’t believe in God aren’t foolish (well some are, but we probably won’t reach the truly selfish ones who are only interested in what they can get[1]). Most people recognise that when they are offered something for nothing there’s a catch.  Hence our offer of a fluffy, free, gutless God turns them off: maybe that’s why Jesus never offered that picture of God?

Discipleship: An Application  

So how do we picture the true God, the real deal, a seemingly contradictory God of love and judgement?  I’ve been reading ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren recently, and he offers a picture or model (there may be many more) that seems to work.

Warren’s focus is on discipleship, and underpinning the many ideas in this very rich book, is just one idea, the idea of ‘character’.  He suggests that the character, or person, we are when we die is the one we will keep throughout eternity.  So if we are full of hatred, jealousy, rage and selfish ambition[2] then we will remain so forever.  Even if we are saved and living with God, we will still be us: in essence, the same character we were on earth[3].

Therefore Warren’s conclusion (and his book is soundly Biblical) is that this life may be our only opportunity to hone and develop our character into something that we could and should be: forever.  Now, IMHO, all models of God (theology) are wrong, but some are useful, but perhaps this idea helps us makes sense of a loving God, who allows us to suffer, even after we become Christians and are saved.

Conclusion 

There is a reason that God wants us not only to be saved, but to be disciples and to change and grow in character – however painful and costly that might be – because the alternative is awful.  God requires us to live a good life of worship, service, fellowship, sacrifice, mission – discipleship – not because he is a distant, disinterested God, but because He is our Father, He is Jesus (‘God with us’), he is the Holy Spirit within us and because He loves us..


[1] Are you shocked?  Jesus said the majority of people will enter the broad gate to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

[2] Some of the fruit of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19).

[3] Can we still change in heaven?  Warren suggests not; CS Lewis says yes, we can change, that there is still pain in heaven.

Lord over All

Message:  To remind us that God is Lord over all things, time & space – based on Psalm 148 & Revelation 21:1-6.

Introduction 

Blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes – we have recently been reminded how powerful nature is and how we are subject to that power.  As the song says, “We’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are!”

Exegesis:What is the Bible saying to us today?

Psalm 148.  We hear a hymn of praise.  All of creation, heaven and earth, is to join in.  Nothing and no one is left out: angels; sun, moon and stars; the sea and its creatures; the weather; the land; all plants and trees; wild and domestic animals, birds and insects; and all people – royalty and commoners, men and women, young and old.

Revelation 21:1-6.  These last chapters of the last book of the Bible, we see the final vision of the last things, the end of history.  In this passage, the seer invites us to share a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” (v1). The old familiar things – and their limitations – are swept away by God and replaced by a heaven and earth, the like of which has never been seen before!  Think about that…scientists tell us that in the Big Bang, not only was the physical universe created, but time and space itself came into being.  At the end God will repeat and renew this creation (v5).  “It is done” (v6) God’s plan is completed.  God is “the Alpha and the Omega” (explain Greek alphabet). There is nothing outside of, or beyond, Him.

In these passages we could draw many lessons, but one that strikes me is God’s power is universal.  He is God over all creation, over earth and heaven, over all time and space.

Application: Lord over All?

What should be our response to these visions?

  • Some people want to exclude God from public life, because they don’t understand faith, for example, the desire to avoid ‘Christmas’ for fear of offending Muslims, when, in fact, they revere Jesus.
  • Some want to say that there is a conflict between science and religion – I don’t accept that.  I believed in evolution and the big bang theory before I believed in God.  Whatever the scientists discover about God’s creation, it doesn’t stop us having a relationship with Him.
  • We need to remember that we can pray for everyone everywhere – no one can stop us!  Praying for people is a great way to avoid the temptation of judging them, which – sadly – what many people expect from us. 
  • Just as we should not judge, no one can judge us.  We can wear our religious symbols and talk about God: let’s stop asking permission to do this and just get on with it. 
  • Perhaps most threatening of all though is that God wants to be Lord over every part of our lives.  Dare we surrender everything to Him?  Can we submit all to His scrutiny, for His approval and blessing? 
  • Do we have integrity? Are we consistent in our private thoughts and public words?

Conclusion

When those without faith look at natural disasters around the world they look at so many deaths and see only tragedy.  However, the faithful know that there is more to creation than this physical world. There is heaven, and death is not the end for those who accept Jesus as Lord.  For us this physical life is only part of the story, indeed there is no part of our outer or inner world where God doesn’t belong.  Without God life is incomplete and our individual lives and community life lack meaning.

The Holy Spirit, Jesus’s Legacy

A sermon on Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birthday of the Church. (Scripture for the day: Genesis 11:1-9; John 14:8-17, (25-27); and Romans 8:14-17).

Jesus’ Legacy: the Holy Spirit.

  • Not just a Birthday, but Our anniversary – a time for reflection and thinking ahead.
  • When we reflect we often think of our legacy – what have we achieved, what have we left behind us?
  • The Holy Spirit is Jesus ‘legacy’ (legacy = bequest, inheritance, gift, donation).

The Holy Spirit is… 

Who is this person we’ve inherited?  What are they like?  What do they do?

  • Holy – set aside for God’s purpose or work.
  • Of Truth – leads people to the truth about God and who Jesus is.
  • Reminder – of Jesus (person), actions, teaching and message.
  • Peaceful – allows us to rest in intimacy with God, rather than fear.
  • Counsellor – helps and advises us, especially to obey God because we love Jesus.
  • Advocate – our defender when accused (Satan = ‘accuser’).
  • Comforter – someone we can turn to for reassurance in trouble.
  • Adopter – lets us know that we are adopted, and receive God’s inheritance (legacy).
  • Has personality – not a characterless, distant force, but a person we can know.
  • Dynamic – changing and responsive to our situation; active in God’s plans.
  • Guide – leads us to do new things, meet new people and see new places.

Our Legacy 

In around 25 years’ time I will be retiring (I hope) and looking back upon a life of…What will I have achieved?  Where will I have fallen short?  [“because …”]

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  Teddy Roosevelt, 23rd Apr 1910.

In 25 years’, what will our Church look like?  Many congregations will have died our entirely; their buildings will no longer be holy.  Yate and Staple Hill are larger and have families with children, so they should still be here.  We will endure; but, given what we know about the Holy Spirit, is that enough? 

Transfiguration: Glimpses of Substance

A sermon on the Transfiguration, based on Luke 9:28-36.

Introduction

We are in that part of the story (Luke, Mark or Matthew), where Jesus asks his disciples who he is and only Peter has the nerve to see it and say: “you are God’s Messiah”.  Then Jesus tells the disciples that he must suffer and die to fulfil his mission; Peter argues with Jesus and is rebuked.  A week later Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a hill to pray, then …

Meaning at the Time

Jesus allowed his disciples to see him transfigured so that they would know what he was really like – his Glory, or substance.  They needed to know what the Messiah was really like because they had no idea, or worse they had a wrong idea (Jewish Superman), which got in the way of the truth.  Even when one disciple realises that Jesus is the Messiah, he still gets it wrong.  So Jesus had no choice but to take some of the disciples[1] and show them the truth.

This truth was that Jesus was on earth as part of God’s age-old plan for his people, the continuation of the work done by Moses and Elijah[2]. In the bright light it’s hard to see who they are, and we might see a symbol of the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit.  This mountaintop experience, where God is often found in the Bible, reveals God’s glory – the reality, the hyper-reality, of his great substance or solidity.  

Meaning for Now

Our faith is not some self-improvement program.  We are not going to get more powerful, or younger, sexier, fitter, thinner, healthier, or wiser or richer by following him.  We are going to get more like Jesus – Jesusier? – juicier: if you squeeze us then love will leak out!

And because Jesus is close to God we get closer to God as we get closer to Jesus.  And because Jesus is God we get more like God too, not that we will have power and honour and praise – but we have glory.  We have substance, something about us, it’s not of this world and it will outlast this world. It is more than this world can understand or grasp.  Hallelujah!

Conclusion

It is my duty and my joy to bring this message to you, for you are special people, loved by God and filled with His glory.  Thank you.


[1] Why not all of them? And why choose the most stroppy ones – the ‘sons of thunder’ and Peter? That’s another sermon!?

[2] But Jesus will go further and wider than Moses or Elijah, who’s mission was just to the Jews.  Jesus will allow all peoples of the earth, not just the Jews but the whole human race, to be with God.  This revelation will so shock and anger the conservative religious authorities that they will kill Jesus.

We Chose to Celebrate

A sermon about chosing, based on Jeremiah 31:7-14 and several New Testament passages.

Introduction

People who don’t know God sometimes say that they can’t believe in Him because of all the bad things in the world (e.g. David Attenborough and the eyeball-burrowing worm; he choses not to consider the logical opposite, which is that good things in the world suggest that there is a God.)

Jeremiah 31 – Meaning at the Time

But God never promised us a perfect world, a world free from suffering and the effects of sin.  Notice what Jeremiah says:

“For the Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.”  (Jer 31:11)

God promises to ransom/redeem Jacob, His people in exile, from a stronger people, either the Assyrians or Babylonians; note that this is a concrete promise referring to real events, not some vague nicety.  However, God does not promise to make ‘us’ stronger than ‘them’, but merely to rescue us.  The stronger peoples, who do not know God, will remain.  We should not, therefore, expect a perfect world.  John points out that many Jews failed to recognise Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus himself tells us that poverty[1] and war[2] will always be with us.   Not everyone will know God.  Life is not fair. 

Meaning for Today

This unfairness also raises questions amongst people.  Some ask what have Christians done to deserve this favour?  Why, in this age, which worships individual choice and equality[3], is this salvation not equally available to all?  John’s Gospel tells us that it does not depend on inherited rights, but on recognising Jesus: “… his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him … he gave the right to become children of God …” (John 1:11b-12).  Anyone can be saved if they receive Jesus. 

Some Christians want to make the world perfect in their own strength, in their own understanding.  Perhaps the evangelical want to see everyone accept Jesus as Lord.  Perhaps the legalists want to see all Christians obey God’s will perfectly.  Perhaps the liberals want to see all social ills and injustices wiped out.  Perhaps the ‘Universalists’ would like all to be saved regardless of their belief in Jesus.  All of these groups will be disappointed – none of them will be able to celebrate victory.  As nice as these ideas sound, they are not real, and they are not part of God’s plan.

The response that is required of us at Christmas is to celebrate being part of God’s chosen people.  We recognised God in Jesus and believe in who He is.  For that reason alone we are saved, we have bought in to God’s plan to save humanity, which he formulated before he formed the universe itself.  With a free ticket we have won the lottery, a prize of undeserved holiness and blamelessness, adoption and inheritance, lavish grace, redemption and forgiveness.  We have even been briefed on God’s secret plan to eliminate poverty, war, sin and unbelief by bringing all things under Christ at the end of time[4]

Conclusion

Today, therefore, the people of God are not to waste time waiting for a perfect world that we can’t make, or questioning God’s wisdom in granting salvation as He chooses.  Today, we are to celebrate what we already have, the salvation and hope of Jesus, the promised Messiah.  We really are different from other people, only because we recognise Jesus for what He really is – God and man.  We chose to accept Jesus as Lord and so to become the Chosen people of God.  Happy Christmas!


[1] Matthew 26:11 “The poor you will always have … ”

[2] Matthew 24:6 “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars … [in the end times]”

[3] To the point where it damages society!

[4] Ephesians 1:3-14.

Making Jesus more Reasonable

A sermon about the temptation to make Jesus more reasonable, based on Luke 4:21-30 and 1Corinthians 13.

Introduction

A recent BBC social survey suggests attitudes are getting more liberal, which is not surprising given years of BBC propaganda designed to achieve this end!

However, pressure on the church to conform to the norms of society is not new. Many years ago, the church abandoned it’s opposition to lending money. The Biblical position is that lending money for profit to those in need is exploitation – ‘usury’.

I knew a Christian Bank Manager who complained about irresponsible lending to his superiors – he isn’t a Bank Manager anymore! Now we can look back on the ‘credit crunch’ and we see the devastation caused by irresponsible lending by greedy lenders.

I can’t say with integrity that all lending is wrong (I have a mortgage), but the church is needed to counterbalance natural human greed and restrain its worst effects: we could say that of all sins.  Not that the church – you and me – are perfect.  We need Christ’s leadership to guide us, before we can be an example to others: “Doctor, heal yourself” Jesus says.

The Biblical, Unreasonable Jesus

In many parts of the Gospel we see Jesus saying and doing things that don’t fit in with our modern, liberal politically-correct western society.

He insults a foreign woman who comes to him for help; Jesus physically assaults the money lenders in the Temple; he appears to make mistakes, or not to be able to do things in certain circumstances; Jesus suggests that it’s better to mutilate oneself than to burn in hell; and he points out other peoples’ sins – even while forgiving and healing them.

Some Christians ignore inconvenient parts of the Gospel; many scholars (liberal or conservative) try to explain away Jesus’ more difficult words and deeds.

Luke 4 and Corinthians 13

In today’s passage he goes out of his way to provoke and upset people (I wonder, is it to shock them out of their smug complacency?  Or am I just making excuses like everyone else?)  Jesus deliberately provokes his own kith and kin to the point where they are ready to murder him.  Think about that.  That’s the Lord we follow – ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild?’

Contrast that with 1Corinthians Chapter 13 on love.  We had this at our wedding, but perhaps it isn’t just the mushy, emotional passage that people think it is!

We would like Jesus to be more reasonable.  Why does he have to be so difficult?  Why can’t he be more middle of the road, middle class – more like us?

Our society currently worships celebrity and wealth.  To be a celebrity you have to be popular.  To be popular to have to offend as few people as possible, you have to broaden your appeal.

Even if you’re not trying to be famous, you have to be careful what you say, lest you offend anyone.  That’s employment law!  Voicing an opinion is not the way to get ahead: avoid emotive issues – like uncomfortable facts – if you want to get ahead.

Jesus doesn’t seem to be interested in doing this – why does he have to be so inconvenient?

The Imitation of Christ

We are supposed to imitate Christ, but we try to make him imitate us instead.  One of our faults is to try and make Jesus more like us – to make him more reasonable.

At the moment our society is telling us to stop making a fuss. We don’t have the right to tell other people how to live – even if we are just leading by example.  “Stop rocking the boat” is the message: but Jesus rocked the boat and we are to imitate him.

I remember being told in art class to “draw what you see, not what you think you see.”  I hope that we will read the words and actions of Jesus in the Bible, just as they are.  We will need Faith, Hope and Love to truly follow him, and I wish you every blessing on the road.

Amen