Sharing the Faith, Refining our Faith

‘Sharing the Faith, Refining our Faith’ – a sermon on Psalm 22/Mark 8:31-38 (Lent 2, Year B)

Aim

To show that we need to share the Good News that Jesus is the Christ – with each other and with unbelievers

Introduction – Sharing

‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian’, ‘my faith is my business’, ‘you can’t share your faith in a secular society’.

Psalm 22 tells us that God intends everyone to hear the Good News. It cuts across all divisions: rich and poor; in the church and outside; Jews and non-Jews; those living, dead and yet to be born.

The Psalmist says that everyone will turn to God and be blessed. How will they know that they should do this? How will they know how to turn to God?

Message for the Time

Peter had already confessed that Jesus is the Christ, but he totally misunderstands Jesus’ mission.  No one knows this until Peter speaks out, then Jesus corrects Peter and asks people to gather round – then Jesus explains his mission and that of his disciples.

Notice that Peter was correct given the religious assumptions of the day – but still wrong. The other disciples probably thought the same thing – but no one knew they were wrong until Peter spoke up! We all make mistakes, but if we view our faith as our possession and never discuss it then we will never discover anything new – our faith is closed, dead. We must share our faith and our experiences, thoughts and doubts with each other.

Message for Today

Notice also that Jesus then told his followers that they must deny self, take up their cross and follow Jesus (to death).  He also says that if we are ashamed of Jesus message, he will be ashamed of us on judgment day.  Clearly, Jesus expects us to share our faith with the faithless, even if this is not easy and earns us hostility.

What odd ideas do people have about: God – superstition, “a deal with God”; Jesus – “a good man”, “a wise teacher”; and the Holy Spirit – something for weirdos only?

What odd ideas do people have about our faith?  Are they hostile to Jesus because they think we think ourselves superior and are judging them? We need to tell them the truth about how we don’t deserve salvation!

We need to share our faith with each other, and with non-Christians, in order to make it real, vital and alive. We need to share the Good News, that Jesus is the Christ, that he died for us and is alive today as if our lives and their lives depended on it. Because it’s true!

A God of Love Who Judges

A God of love who Judges – Sermon on John 15:1-8 (Easter 5, Year B)

John 15:1-8

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:1-8 [NIV]

A God of Love Who Judges

One of the other readings for today is 1John 4:7-21 on the theme ‘God is love’.  It’s a very popular reading with a nice cosy message.  The Gospel reading, quoting Jesus directly, is much more challenging.  Jesus says that we can be fruitful if we stay connected to Him, but he says that without Him we can do NOTHING, and will be fit only for burning.  Many struggle with this teaching.  How can a God of love reject, judge and punish people, they ask?

First…

…we must remember that such questions are self-centred.  God loves all people and wishes all to be saved, yet we know that many others are suffering because of our wealth.  Surely God will be angry with those who oppress and exploit the people He loves?  We can argue that it’s not our fault, but that doesn’t change the reality.

Second…

…I’m not sure that God does reject anyone.  Abraham said “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” when God was considering destroying Sodom [Gen 18:25].  God has sent Jesus to enable all to be saved, but will all accept Jesus?

Remember the ABC of becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus?

  • Admit your sin – many say and will say “I don’t need forgiveness, I’ve done nothing wrong”.
  • Believe in Christ – many reject Jesus as not the only way to God, not the Christ; they see Jesus as just a good man or a prophet or they don’t think him important.
    • I have little fear for the devout of other faiths; I think that someone who has sincerely sought God will have no trouble recognising the Christ.
    • I do worry that those who have ignored God all their lives will not be able to change their habits, that they won’t be able to look past themselves.
  • Commit your life to Him – many refuse to commit or surrender to Christ.  In the West, people see their own individuality as paramount and they will not give up control to anyone, will not be in debt to anyone (except those we exploit, of course!) and want to stay in control of their ‘own’ lives.

Third…

…let us be reassured of God’s mercy to us.  None of us is in God’s presence because we deserve to be, or because of our own righteousness.  We are ‘clean’ because the word from Jesus has made us so, and that word is ‘forgiveness’.

Conclusion 

We can trust in Jesus our saviour and Lord.  I have no need to say more.  I have no time to say any more as we need to thank God and lift so many in need to him.  Amen

Life in Adelaide: a Source of Inspiration for Writing

How is life in Adelaide a source of inspiration for your writing?

My Take On it

Members of the Writers in Adelaide group have been asked to contribute to a ‘blog chain’ on the subject of Adelaide as an inspiring place to write or inspiring me as a writer. I’ve just come back from the UK where every day was hot and sunny, and I’ve returned to a cold wet and windy Adelaide.  There are British programs on the TV.  I’m confused!

A Good Place

Adelaide, Jacarandas, Rainbow, Spring
One of My First Photos of Adelaide

Putting that aside, the Adelaide that I’m used to is good for writing.  It seems an open place to me, as the streets are wide, the houses are spread out and there’s plenty of parklands.  There is room here, room to think – room for my mind to roam and seek big ideas. The climate also helps, because we can keep our houses open (okay, maybe not in winter), open into the garden and the wider outside; we can look around, relax, explore, see the sights, do stuff and meet people.

Connectivity

Adelaide is a close place, a connected place.  Surprisingly for a city of 1.5 million people, everyone seems to know everyone else, usually via two or three acquaintances. I’m constantly amazed at how someone I know is also known by somebody else that I know, with apparently no reason for them to be connected: yet they are.  This is also conducive to writing because it reminds me that good stories are about people, characters and their connections.  A compelling story gives the reader empathy with our characters and their relationships and how they are motivated – driven – to act accordingly.  How we love to discover these connections, especially when the characters would rather they remained a secret.

When I was in the UK writing was a solitary existence, which was fine as I’m comfortable with my own company.  However, when I came here I joined Writers SA and found the Adelaide Writers Group, one of many here, and I haven’t looked back since.  I found a friendly group of people who give me positive criticism and support me, and in return I critique their pieces, learning about writing and growing my skills as a result.  Now, I know that there are writers’ groups all around the world, but I associate Adelaide with this sociability, meeting people down the pub who are also interested (okay, obsessed, let’s be honest) with writing.  Mixed together are earning writers willing to share their knowledge and my fellow amateurs.  Some of them are on this blog chain, and it’s my pleasure to be part of it.

Summing Up

So Adelaide is a good place to write, but it’s also inspiring in itself.  At the start of this post, I mentioned some similarities and differences between Adelaide and the UK, where I’ve spent most of my life, and about half of my writing life.  Adelaide feels like a cross between the UK and USA to me, familiar enough for me to feel at home and different enough to appreciate.  This mix is stimulating, and it’s led me to question a lot of things about life that, I guess, I had just taken for granted.  Coming here has changed who I am and challenged what I identify with.

Let’s hope it improves my writing!

What Others in the Blog chain Said…