Sermons to Read
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Jesus on Marriage

Job 2:1-10/Mark 10:2-16

INTRO: In our opening rdg fm Job we have that poor old man, afflicted, distressed, discouraged and perplexed in all his troubles. In the midst of all of this he has a wife – what was her advice to him?

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

 

I guess for Job marriage was a mixed blessing!!   A bit more constructive encouragement might have been more helpful!?

 

On Tues I was speaking to the MU as they reconvened after Covid 19 – I shared some observations from kids on marriage and relationships:

 

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY?

No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.- Karen, age 10

 

WHEN  IS  IT  OKAY  TO  KISS  SOMEONE?

When they're rich.- Pam, age 7

 

HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?

Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.- Ricky, age 10

 

Marriage can be an amazing blessing – just the other Sun at Cliv couple celebrate 69yrs!! And they’re still so much in love, work together painting fence!!

In our time marriage has really come under the cosh. There are many abroad who would smash marriage – many feminists regard it as a patriarchal means of owning someone or oppressing them. Others regard marriage as an outdated mode of relationship that simply spoils your chances of getting a better model – keep your options open.  And, Living in Love and Faith is actively asking people to explore the way the church should be responding to same-sex, civil partnered couples etc. Church in Wales has just authorised an 'experimental' period of blessing same-sex marriages, the Methodist have doine something similar and also now affirm cohabitation – essentially, they have done away with God’s vision of marriage and replaced it with a 21c politically correct version. But there are others who are building a future together with God at the core of their marriage and that's a real joy! (I spent some time with one such couple who want to honour God and build their marriage on His word). 

In Mk 10 Jesus was presented with a question about divorce and from it we can see where He stands on the issue – clearly Jesus maintained a very high view of marriage – in His eyes it was a fundamental good in creation! He makes several points we do well to acknowledge in our times:

1. So often it is hard heartedness that leads to marital breakdown – relationships are to be regarded as precious, permanent and to be preserved.  It’s right that in the marriage service we state that this estate is not to be entered into “lightly or selfishly, but reverently and responsibly in the sight of Almighty God”. We know He hates divorce and will call us to account for the way we treat each other. Never good to let bitterness or hard heartedness to settle in a relationship – it’s a killer! Never go to bed on an argument that can be the start of the rot.

 

2. God made us male (X&Y chromosome) and female (2 X chromosomes) – sexual identity is not a social construct, it is not a fluid condition it is a biological reality and it matters! Why? Because it is the presence of biological parts that mean male and female can ‘marry up’ – you may attempt to stick 2 bolts or 2 screws to one another, but it won’t happen – a bolt was made for a screw and a screw for a bolt – that is true diversity – male on male, or female on female is not diversity it is uniformity and rejects God’s design in creation. Of course, we live in a free country and you can do whatever you like inasmuch as it is lawful, but to seek the blessing of the church on an order for creation that flies directly in the face of God is not helpful, holy nor healthy. Jesus says God made us male and female and on that basis marriage happens – anything else simply is not Christian marriage.

3. The couple leave before they cleave – “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife” – a really simple point – sexual relationships are for marriage. There is a contemporary body of research that shows that those who waited for marriage tend to build stronger relationships that end less in divorce than those who’ve had multiple partners. There is a study, published in the Journal of Health Economics, which found that the greatest drop in teen pregnancies occurred in areas where funding cuts to sex Ed were most severe!!  That was not what anyone expected!

4. Jesus takes a stand to make provision for the protection of women – no welfare state then, a woman’s security rested upon either a family that could support her, some way of making an independent living or – for the most part – making a good marriage. In many ways women were very vulnerable to the whims of her man. So, when Jesus said “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her..” before speaking about the woman doing likewise – He was being outspoken, normally it would have been the woman being accused - as in the woman caught in adultery in Jn8 (according to the law – the man should have been dragged out too!). Jesus stood against the exploitation of women.

5. Note the word used for ‘adultery’ is actually ‘pornia’ you don’t need the brains of an archB to see what word we get from that – many argue that other sexual relationships are OK because Jesus never spoke about them. When Jesus used the word ‘pornia’ He would have had in mind teaching from Lev & Dt, it was a word that summed up the many and bizarre and distressing other options that were practiced in the pagan nations around Israel – options that were definitely off limits for God’s holy people.

Sin (hard-heartedness) often leads to marriages failing. Marriage was designed for the union of one man and one woman and It is within the security and love of that relationship that wholesome intimacy best occurs and where male and female should both find freedom from oppression, exploitation or coercion.  The point is this: marriage is not just a good idea it’s God’s idea!   That we even have to make these simple and obvious points says something about our world today.

In our rdg from Job – we are meant to be impressed at the fact that despite the temptations, the anger, and the grief of his situation Job sought to be a person of integrity – when the pressure was on him, God’s word came from him. No wonder this story earns a place in the affections of all who suffer, and all who seek to be true to God’s words in changing times.  We need to hold marriage in the integrity of it’s Designer despite a world changing around us – especially as the world changes around us - otherwise we fail in our witness to God’s world and Gods order that is best for us.

THE WHOLE BIBLE IN 6 ACTS - The Grand Narrative

ACT 1 - CREATION

 

For weeks,  6-year old Tommy kept telling his Y2 teacher about the baby brother or sister that was expected at his house.
One day his mother allowed the boy to feel the movements of the unborn child. The 6-year old was obviously impressed, but he made no comment. Furthermore, he stopped telling his teacher about the impending event.
The teacher finally asked, "Tommy, whatever became of that baby brother or sister you were expecting at home?"
Tommy burst into tears and confessed, "I think Mommy ate it!"

Life is full of things strange and wonderful and sometimes quite perplexing.  Today we celebrate the love between Jamie & Hayley that brought Mabel into the world, and their decision to bring her to church to be baptised – it’s an important occasion, a joyful occasion that signifies the beginning of a new story, new beginnings in her life.

Today in the life of our parishes we are beginning a new set of sermons which are all going to be about the whole big story of the Bible in 6 acts – 6 sermons.  Now the reality is that we are all part of a big story, we are living out as particular story – we know at certain points in life we will go to school, go to Uni or get a job, hopefully find a partner, maybe get married and have a family, along the way we will adopt certain values and beliefs and live by them.  Xians believe we are all part of Gods big story – and it’s vital for each of us to know where we are IN His story – history is made when we find ourselves in the big story. Over next 6 weeks we will look at the big story of the Bible from start to finish in 6 Acts:

ACT 1: GOD ESTABLISHES HIS KINGDOM: CREATION

ACT 2: REBELLION IN THE KINGDOM: FALL

ACT 3: THE KING CHOOSES ISRAEL

ACT 4: THE COMING OF THE KING: REDEMPTION ACCOMPLISHED

ACT 5: SPREADING THE NEWS OF THE KING: THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH

ACT 6: NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH

So, we begin with creation – you can read about it in the first couple of chapters of Gen, the psalm is just a shortened version.

 The story of creation is a special kind of writing in the bible – it’s not like the history of WW2, but it does communicate important things about God, us and the life God wants for us – and it does it through this story of creation and Adam and Eve.

1. GOD – What’s He like? Ask folk to shout out what they imagine God to be like….flipchart…..        Well psalmist tells us He is awesome in power and creativity.  It also tells us that God is really interested in each one of us – actually we learn from the Bible He loves all of us and in Act 4 we will reflect on just how much He really does love us by sending Jesus into the world to be our Saviour.

2. US – Child vol (draw something on flipchart – a picture of your Mummy) hands up anyone here who has ever drawn something from imagination? What we learn from the beginning of Gods story in the Bible is that we were made to be like Him – creative – we have ideas and make new things, just like God we are creative and powerful. Hands up those who have ever used their power and abilities to make something happen from scratch – a new project, a lesson plan, a new product? 

But there are other ways we are like God too - Hands up anyone who has been tempted to do something wrong but chose to do what was right? God made us to be people who know right/wrong and can choose which we do – moral agents. He also wanted us to understand that there are always consequences to our choices, so we need to be careful. In Act 2 we will be thinking about how something went wrong – something we all know by experience, but something God sets out to fix and heal.  

So we learn about God, about ourselves and finally about….

3. LIFE – Q? Big Question how would you feel if someone told you ‘you were just an accident’?  How might that affect the way you think about yourself and even live your life?

We learn from the Bible that no-one is an accident, no such thing as an accidental child, only accidental parents!!   God knew each one of us before we were even born!       Xians do not believe we are just a cosmic accident, the result of random atoms and cells emerging from an empty universe, we believe there is an intelligent mind behind it all – and we believe it is God.  But we also discover that this God actually wants to have a personal relationship with each of us, to be our guide in life, to see us flourish and make use of all our God given abilities to make the world a better place, that’s why Adam & Eve started out in a garden they were to tend.

So – Act 1 Creation – we learn about God – He is powerful and loves us; about ourselves – we were made to be like God, creative, powerful and choosing bx right/wrong, and about our lives – God wants each one of us to have a special relationship with Him and discover who He made us to be so we can play our part in the big story.

Today we take those first steps of helping little Mabel to begin her story within God’s big story and we will pray she will come to know Him for herself, understand how precious she is to Him and discover His will for her life. Amen

ACT 2 - THE FALL

Adam’s suit: A little boy opened the big, old family Bible with fascination. He looked at the old pages as he turned them.
Then something fell out of the Bible. He picked it up and looked at it closely. It was an old leaf from a tree that had been pressed between pages.
"Mum, look what I found", the boy called out.
"What is it?" his mother asked.
"I think it's Adam's suit!!!!!"

In Act 1 we considered how the story of creation gave us light on God, ourselves and our lives – we saw something about the nature of God supreme power and creativity and His interest in us. We reflected on the fact that human beings were made in the image of God and bear His likeness in the way we too are creative, moral and powerful. And we also thought about the fact that our lives were meant to be filled with meaning, purpose and to be shared with God.

I want to use the same structure as we come to Act 2 – ‘The Fall’

In the drama of the story we arrive at  a crisis that has radical implications, but it expresses important truths about God/Us/Our lives.

 

GOD:  Desired Relationship – v8 God walked in gdn – there was no shame, no hiding before this crisis – it was open, honest and good

  • Calls to acct: did you eat? No matter what happens in life all will one day give acct to God – no-one gets away with anything forever!

  • - snake, Adam and Eve, excludes from gdn (first hint of hell – separation from God)

  • Still cares: first God ever to act as a tailor v21

  • Places boundaries on human wilfulness – ctrls access to tree of life

US:  We are enticed by our eyes – the lust of the eyes, there’s a whole industry based on this you get little knowledge of the product but a good sense of what you’d look like driving this or that; we wear make up or buy certain clothes because we want a certain look; Jesus said the eye is the lamp of the body – through it comes the light of desire – if the light is darkness you’re in trouble, all kinds of desire and envy will follow.   This is our story.

We listen to snakes – ‘did God really say’? The lust of the eyes can very quickly lead us to start doubting those voices that would guide us because their way does not lead us to what we really want. We seek all kinds of answers that might allow us to describe black as white, right as wrong, male as female, the immoral as moral or at least a permissible option… did God really say??? The snake whispers, “God or be religion just wants to control you… don’t let it, be yourself, do your own thing, don’t let anyone tell you what to do…” and all of this comes as music to our ears sometimes…  Jer said ‘the heart of many is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked’ – If we are honest, we all know this is our story too

We are beings with consciences – C S Lewis regards this psg in Gen 3 as supremely being about the awakening of conscience, that at some point in human development we crossed over from being creatures who acted merely by instinct into those who acted on forethought and in the light of conscience – that’s the birth of humanity with all its potential for good or evil.  Actually, in the narrative, the knowledge of Gods will and our will were already awake Eve said as much to the serpent – but now she is lured into making a choice contrary to what she knew, and it’s the wrong one, it has catastrophic consequences, but it tasted so good and nothing devastating seemed to happen!!  And yet something dies within her even as the fruit enters her gut and leaves her hand into Adams’ salivating chops!   Friends don’t think anyone in biblical history ever got themselves into a tizzy about forbidden fruit, it was the paradigm shifting consequences that is the real meaning of this text that stirred up the voices of the prophets.   St Paul echoes this in the opening chapter of Rom.  God makes a world and speaks order into chaos, people exchange the truth of God for a lie and the whole project begins to unravel.

LIFE:   ‘Broken’ now becomes the sign hanging round the neck of humanity – relationship with God - broken (gone are the days of walking together in the cool of the day), relationship with ourselves - broken (we suffer a loss of vocation – working with God in caring for creation – work becomes a curse not a joy), relationship with each other - broken (look at blame game v12-13 – snake didn’t have a leg to stand on), relationship with the planet v17b-19 cursed is the ground because of you – a phrase we are beginning to understand even more in these days of climate change (dominance and exploitation replace stewardship and cooperation).

We perceive the same themes in Ro 1 – when God is taken from the throne – we replace light of God with the darkness of idolatry; we become deluded and our thinking becomes darkened and futile – thinking ourselves wise we become fools; human relationships break down, become disordered, dysfunctional and confused; our relationship with the world is characterised by greed, envy and depravity.

The bible has a very small word for all of this; SIN – middle letter ‘I’ – if God is no longer God, someone else will be and we decide whom our god will be – who will we surrender our choices to? Who will we lend our powers to? What mind will govern our actions and direct our ways?

So, early in the story something goes tragically wrong; John Calvin the French Reformer spoke of human nature taking a tumble, a fall and the effects of it are that every single part of our human nature is negatively affected by sin – our thinking, our desires, our wilfulness and hard heartedness.  By the time we get to Gen 6 we read the saddest words in the Bible: “6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved”.

And yet – even here – there is hope – v15….

15 And I will put enmity  between you and the woman,   and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head,  and you will strike his heel.”

Gen 3:15 HOPE- powerful opening scene in Mel Gibsons ‘Passion of the Christ’ where Jesus spots a snake in the garden of gethsemane and stamps on its head and crushes it! That’s Gen 3:15 in action – all is not lost, God has still got a plan……. It will begin with a man called Abram and eventually one of His offspring who will be born in a stable in Bethlehem….

Back to the little boy at the start of my message – we need to take a leaf from the Bible, see out story in its story, face the reality of our own fallen natures and seek the one who brings light into darkness, brings order out of chaos and makes reconciliation with our Creator possible once more. Amen

ACT 3 - ISRAEL

Now you may have thought that Act 1 & 2 covered a very small part of the Bible and that at this pace we might get the series finished in time for the apocalypse! However, this sermon – Act 3, essentially takes in the rest of the OT!! So sermon a bit longer today…

 

INTRO: Act 1 – creation. Act 2 – The Fall with all its tragic implications. But God had plans, Act 3 introduces us to the time when those plans begin to take effect for the redemption and reconciliation of humanity.     From an ancient landscape God speaks to a man called Abram from the land of UR of the Chaldees (today it’s just near Basra in Iraq), “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and…. all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

 

IN Act 3 we have in mind the   whole history of Israel – from God’s covenant with Abraham, his sojourn into Egypt, the Exodus, settling of the promised land flowing with milk and honey (detailed in the books of Exodus, Dt, Nos, & Leviticus) – their journey through the governance issues detailed in Joshua, Judges, Samuel and then into the times of the Kings as reflected in the bks of Kings & Chronicles. All the wisdom literature such as Job, Eccl, Proverbs, SofS, Psalms and Ruth demonstrate something of the internal development of their faith. The darker phases of the people of God are chronicled throughout but esp in the books of the prophets that eventually led to the times of exile as God’s judgement comes to His people.

God’s hopes had been frustrated. Often, he sent prophets to draw the people back to Himself – and the message they brought was often very similar; in the life of the prophet Hosea he actually acts out through his life and marriage the fortunes of adulterous Israel who had turned their attention to other gods, Hosea’s poor kids end up bearing names that become a rebuke to Israel – the situation was bad, and it wouldn’t be long before the people lost the land and ended up in exile both in Assyria and Babylon. Their story is our story, we too find ourselves exiled from God as we chose things that replace God and lead us away from Him.

Ezra & Neh will tell us all about the restoration of the people to the land, but in a somewhat reduced and very chastened way – the spiritual ldrs never quite regarded the exile as being over since the presence of God had departed from the temple - it felt as though God had moved on.  However, the voices of the prophets arose once more and even in exile – all hope is not lost, some return to the Lord and seek Him anew – and God speaks through the prophets – to Ezekiel about a valley of dry bones coming back to life and to Jeremiah about a time when God will remove the heart of stone from his people and give them a new heart and put a new Spirit in them, also foreseeing a time when once more God would visit His people in redemption and restoration and so pursue His purposes in time and history.

The people of Israel would return, but it would be 400 years before the next Act begins.  Act 3 is a long sad and sorry tale of human history and failure, but it also bears witness to the fact that at a time when humanity had lost faith in God, He had not lost faith in them.

Now, before we go any further I want to just make 2 simple but major points, one relates to the type of literature in Gen after ch11, the other is about the global historical context of the narrative covered by Act3.

LIT: After the first 11 ch of Genesis we begin to move into a kind of biblical literature that is more historical rather than mythical – it’s going to talk about real people with real names, real places – many of which we have found, it will also talk about the meanings of certain events that can’t always be proven by historical records of archaeological artefacts, but this is more like history proper not purely legends and folklore.   That said, the Archaeological records do offer huge support to our ancient texts – for example it verifies the existence of UR of the Chaldees, the very birth place of Abraham. In addition, in the same region of the great ziggurat of UR (which was a massive tower built 70ft high and used in worship and for the observation of the stars), they even found evidence of a geographically enormous flood that covered that whole region and probably gave rise to the Sumerian flood legend and the flood story of Noah.  Interestingly, in just 1997 a team of scientists working in the Black Sea Basin proposed what has become known as the Black Sea Deluge hypothesis; they discovered evidence of a major climatic event some 7550yrs ago, whereby sea levels rose rapidly and worked their way through the valley we know today as the Bosphorous Straits in Turkey, and then cascaded down into an existing lake Basin that has now become the Black Sea – it would have been a catastrophic event and, if you lived there, it would have seemed as though the whole world had been flooded.                           With  reference to ancient history recorded in Genesis we can identify the ruins of the tower of Babel which was probably another ziggurat – the Babylonians were the inventors of the 12 signs of the zodiac. We also now know that Haran, where Abram stopped after setting out to follow Gods call, was a thriving culture and city for over 1000 yrs!

GLOBAL CONTEXT: So often the biblical history we reflect on can seem like another world away from ours – but it wasn’t, so allow me to put this history into a wider global historical context to help you locate it all in your mind.   Abram was bn almost 5000yrs ago, in 2166BC – he would have been very familiar with the signs of the zodiac from his culture where, originally, there was the worship of a great sky god before the development of many different gods. Abram held to the One. Just before the peoples of our Islands started bldg Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain - Isaac, Abrahams son was born. When the wheel was being invented in the ancient near east Joseph was being born into slavery!   Moses was born when sundials were being used in Egypt and he led the Exodus of the Israelites from there around 1446BC, the following year they received the 10 Cdts at Sinai – 40 yrs later they entered Canaan, then followed a rather discouraging history of various Judges and eventually kings - some good, most not, all too often falling into the old ways of Adam and Eve and unseating the word of the Lord to pursue their own agendas. In 1000BC David becomes King, heralding the Golden Age of Israel. Meanwhile in China Peking city was being built, a hundred years later the Celts invaded Britain and the Jerusalem temple was completed. Another hundred after that, some 800yrs BC, the caste system is invented in India and the first Olympics takes place in Greece, and Hosea becomes a prophet as does Isaiah not too long before the Assyrians invade Israel and carry it off into exile, in Britain the Celts were introducing the plough!  And 70 yrs after this the Italians invent false teeth! The second exile of Gods people takes place in Babylon (by the rivers of Babylon) around 600BC – some 50 yrs later Buddha is born in India and Confucius is born in China. By 538 the Jews were returning from exile to the promised land – a broken people, 20 yrs later the second temple was completed – a shadow of the first. Meanwhile over in Persia they are taking up the sport of Polo! 20 yrs later Rome becomes a republic and Halloween becomes a Celtic festival. In 479BC Esther becomes Queen of Persia and Greek men started to have short haircuts for the first time! Now we are into the golden age of Athens – massive architectural developments – huge temples and the Parthenon are built – there is an explosion of learning from atomic science to Gk philosophy and mathematics. 40 yrs after this Malachi (who wrote last bk of OT is born). Just 10 years on from this Aramaic begins to replace Hebrew as the spoken language of the Jews – Jesus grew up learning Hebrew, but speaking in Aramaic. At this point in history the books of our OT have been written and Israel is in its own dark age. They had missed their vocation.

Around 380yrs BC Aristotle is born, and the Romans start building roads just about everywhere!  In 215BC Gt Wall of China has been built and in 169 BC the temple of Jerusalem is plundered by the Gk emperor Antiochus Epiphanes and the darkness in Israel deepens – many feeling that even though the people of God are no longer in physical exile – they are still in a spiritual exile – the glory has departed, the Presence of God no longer abides with them as He used to.   60 yrs later Julius Caesar become emperor, and 50 yrs on from that, in 55BC, the Romans conquer England. Some 30 yrs after this a young Jewish girl called Mary is born… and the Japanese take up sumo wrestling!! Herod is now on the throne of Israel and the stage is set for God’s next move.

 

In Act 3, around 1400 BC we see a people wandering around the wilderness of Sin on the Arabian peninsula after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt but before their entry into the promised land. During this time as they struggled to embrace their faith and to keep the covenant with God, one generation passed and a new generation headed for the promised land. For 40yrs their progress was marked by consistent failure and judgement, though they would eventually make it out. But at 1 point they have a strange encounter with a certain prophet called Balaam. A local chief paid him to put curses on Israel – but when he opened his mouth out came only blessings, but something else too.. in Nos 24:17 we have these enigmatic words in Balaam’s 4th oracle; “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth” Moab and Sheth were enemies of Israel. You would think this prophecy refers to the time of King David and the golden era of Israel, but actually Isaiah picks this theme up in his own prophetic ministry several hundred years after David, and he utters words which will then be recited in the opening chapters of Matthews gospel as He bears witness to the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in the birth of Christ.

It is possible that the wise men in the time of the Babylonian captivity of Israel were aware of these prophecies from the lips of the exiles, the astrological dimension of a ‘star’ coming out of Jacob’ may esp have captured their attention.  And then, at the outset of the 1stC a moment occurred when a number of wise men in the east were scanning the heavens and felt there were signs that something was about to happen in Israel – a great King and something more was to be born in Israel, a person whose nature and rule would be epoch making. Interestingly in the wider Graeco/Roman world of the time Josephus, the Jewish historian, also tells us that there was a widespread belief that something was going to happen in Israel… and in a stable, several miles outside Jerusalem… a child is born.. and wise men came from the east who saw His star rising… they came not to simply pay their respects to the newborn King, but to worship Him. The time had come for Act 4 to begin, the way to redemption for, not only Israel, but for the whole world was at hand – the ‘kingdom of God’ was at hand. As Hosea wrote, “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ This is our story too. AMen

ACT 4 - JESUS

Our reading for today is drawn from several chapters of St Matthews gospel that give some account of the outworking of God’s plans for our redemption, as Christ steps onto the stage of human history:

Mt Chap 1:1 This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Chap 2 – the alarm of King Herod: 2: 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
   who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”

3: The ministry of John the Baptist – the forerunner of the Messiah: 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
   make straight paths for him.’

Ch4:12-17 Jesus Begins to Preach

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
   the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
   Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
   a light has dawned.”[f]

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This is the gospel of the Lord:

Praise to you O Christ

RECAP:  Act 1 - God Establishes His Kingdom: Creation – God sets up a relationship between Himself and humanity and the creation whereby we all dwell in love, joy and peace.

Act 2 – Rebellion in the Kingdom: The Fall.

Sin enters the world and the human story breaking down relationships bx God and humanity, Adam and Eve and the earth. Human history is now only a shadow of its former self, and each human being ‘only a shadow of their future self’ (N T Wright).

Act 3: The King Chooses Israel: Redemption Initiated 

In fulfilling the promise to Abraham God calls Israel out of slavery and takes them to a promised land, with a new covenant (10 Cdts) and a new hope. Israel is to be a vision of what humanity, restored to relationship with God, can be like. Sadly, it all ends in faithless Israel turning away, missing it’s vocation. But God keeps the story going with prophecy of a new day, a new Kingdom and a Saviour to come – a ‘Messiah’.)

Know why the Israelites wandered for 40 years? They had a man leading...a woman would have stopped and asked directions!

Today we are going to look at Act 4 : THE COMING OF THE KING: REDEMPTION ACCOMPLISHED

Matts gospel opens with a volley of texts drawn from the prophet Isa    each is selected to demonstrate how Jesus fulfils them and becomes the Redeemer foretold.

For the early church this link between the OT prophecies and their NT fulfillment was immensely important. In these strange and wonderful words they began to see God’s plan for the salvation of humanity being outworked and they saw it most clearly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – Jesus was and is the very focal point of history – ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’.

St Paul in Eph 1:7-10 speaks of Gods love and the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus and how God’s purpose in Christ was “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ”.   The ancient church leader Irenaus (one time Bishop of Lyons), taught an important doctrine which has become known as ‘recapitulation’. It is a very helpful understanding of this text which will enrich us if we understand it too; it centers around the phrase ‘together under one head’(NIV), or In J B Phillips translation, “history shall be consummated in Christ”, or in the Message, “everything would be brought together and summed up in him”.

The idea is that in Jesus everything will be as God intended it to be, He was the most complete human being ever to have graced God’s earth (Jn1:14 – ‘we have seen His glory, full of grace and truth”) and He shows us what true humanity looks like, He also shows us what God’s love looks like too – through his healing, miracle-working, transforming teaching, and His virtues of compassion, mercy and communion with all people.  Jesus actually lives out life as it was intended to be, and His life begins to reverse the effects of the Fall and recapitulates or re-runs history, but where humanity failed  Jesus succeeds.  Let’s do a comparison:

Human history

Jesus – Group to turn up texts

Gen 1:1The Holy Spirit is present and active at beginning of creation

 

What happens in Matthew 1: 18)?

(HS present and active at Jesus beginnings)

Gen 2 – temptation:  Adam and Eve ‘fall’.

 

Gen 3:11-12 Garden of Eden humanity chooses to go against God’s will

 

What happens in Matthew 4:1-11?

(temptation - but this time Jesus holds firm).

Garden of Gethsemane - Mark 14:36?(perfect submission to the will of God)

Ex 20: The law is proclaimed 

 

What happens here? Mt 5:17 & Jn 13:34 (the law is to be fulfilled – not discarded, but the law of love is accentuated)

Ex, Dt, Lev etc…

Sacrifices are established to maintain fellowship with God and to pay the price for human sin..

Isa 53 utters strange words the Jews could never comprehend because they spoke of how the Messiah would suffer and die…

What happens here:

Mark 15:37-38 as Jesus dies on the cross the curtain of temple torn, symbolizing how the way back to God is now open to all.

His death fulfils the mysterious prophecy of Is in ways no-one foresaw – amazing!!

Living by law alone led only to failure and death.

What happens here: Gal 5:16, 22-25 (living by the Spirit brings us into the kind of relationship God was seeking in the beginning)

 

As we conclude this Act 4 we need to see that this story is our story – God wrote it for us, He prepared it all for us who stand in need of forgiveness and a new start – and who can have it if we will repent and turn to Christ – rejoicing in all that His life, death and resurrection means. Jesus said Jn 14:6 I am the way, truth, life – no man comes to the Fr except by me.

Jesus sums up all things in Himself – he fulfils the requirements of the law, He dies the sinner’s death, He crushes the serpents head and breaks the power of death over creation and will one day liberate the whole of creation from bondage to decay (Ro8), he has blazed the trail for a new humanity to emerge – one that starts to look like what God originally designed.

For all people Act 4 represents the moment when we have to choose – do I enter His story or choose to remain apart from it ……   Both choices have consequences.

ACT 5 - THE CHURCH

Act 1 Creation/Act 2 The Fall/Act 3 Israel/Act 4 Jesus – fulfils the vocation of Israel and now creates a new covenant for all people – thus Gods purposes of blessing the whole world through Abraham are fulfilled. Humanity is redeemed, renewed and re-launched (through His sacrifice and resurrection), and His church, which is the expression of that new humanity, was called into being to serve the gospel and bring it to all the world.

  • Considering the story of redemption in Act 4 someone said, The best mathematical equation I have ever seen:
    1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.

Today we get to Act 5:  THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH

But there was only a great commission because there was a Gt Cmd – to love God and to love your neighbour. The whole enterprise of the church’s mission is about love; Peter understands this and so seeks to preach to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost a message of reconciliation and forgiveness, a message about new birth. And 3000 were added to their number that day!! Not a bad result for your first sermon!

BIG QUESTION: Imagine that we know that a person of great significance had written a 5 volume work of literature. We have first 4 vols but the author died before finishing the 5th. How might we finish it off? (Chat to your neighbour)

Saturate ourselves in the authors other writings, understand the way they wrote and constructed their lit, spot the vital themes and the essential spirit of the author as much as poss, paying particular attn to the clues and cues in the intro to the new book – then have a go!!  That is exactly what the early church did and what we must do too in our own time.  We have the scriptures, we have a clear vision of Jesus, we have the gt commission and we have the help and power of the Spirit of God.

After the tongues of fire had fallen and the believers had spoken out in many different tongues Peter seizes the moment to explain what was happening and to proclaim Christ. He tells them to

1. Repent – ‘save yourselves from this corrupt generation’ – a call to change their minds about Christ and face their guilt for what they had done to Him, but then to take a deliberate step out of the culture and convictions of the time and to step into the new thing God is doing. How? By being

2. Baptised in name of Jesus – washing away the past, and being cleansed and made ready for a new life.  (archaeol finding of baptistries cross shaped)

3. The Peter assures them that they also will receive HS – and this promise is for you, your children (covenantal idea) and all who are far off (for all who are exiled from God by sin).

4. As the 3000 responded and joined that early band of believers so they launched an amazingly successful church.  But what was it that characterised them that we can learn from?? Vs42-47 – we should all have this text tattooed on our arms. They give themselves to 5 things:

  1. They Devoted themselves to apostles teaching [word there ‘devoted’ = to be earnest towards a thing, to persevere, be constantly diligent, to give yourself continually to something. They didn’t stop learning after Sunday school].  This was not merely nodding at apostles teaching – they were listening, understanding, asking questions, then embracing this teaching in their lives – it was reshaping them, challenging their attitudes and sorting out their priorities (this is: discipleship – this is the new people of God preparing their minds for a new vision of humanity)

  2. They practiced fellows in a ship on a journey from darkness to light, and they loved each other, prayed for one another, made friends with each other, they laughed together, ate together and knew each other well enough to know who was in need.

  3. They shared Breaking of bread and prayer – remembering Jesus and meeting with Him in the sacrament ()

  4. They ministered to those who had need and that from their own personal wealth ().

  5. Clearly, they were sharing their faith with others – the joy of the Lord in them was such they couldn’t help but love others and that meant sharing Jesus and the opportunity to be saved from Gods judgement, to be saved from corruption, to be saved for a life of meaning and purpose. And so we read, ‘The Lord added to their number’ ()

DISCIPLESHIP  FELLOWSHIP  WORSHIP  MINISTRY EVANGELISM

That’s how we do church, and when church functions that way it appears in the heart of the world as a new order of humanity, reconciled to their Creator, renewed in the image of God, redeemed by Jesus the Saviour, re-energised by the HS and ready to go!  Jesus said, ‘Be ye fishers of men’. We catch them - He'll clean them.

David Livingstone – the great African missionary wrote ‘God had only one son, and he was a missionary’ that’s what made Livingstone choose this way of life.  He understood that the Kingdom of God, the rule of God in the world, was intended to come through the church sharing the good news of Christ and seeking to establish a kind of society that reflects a healed humanity. The early church began to practise that as it grew over time – first of all in Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria and in the wider world. Their efforts affected their own community and then even the very economic and social structures of their societies.  Those young pilots in the BoB understood they had a mission – so they strapped up and flew to it! Thank God.   The church is called to a mission in every generation… will it respond, will you respond?               We get the opportunity to encounter something new and wonderful in the gospel – something that can heal and transform – something every single person needs (whether we know it or not).

We may fear the call and the commission, but someone once noted, “The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us”.  God is for us, not against us – but He needs us to respond to the call, to be courageous and to be so loving and concerned for the lost that we will step up and step out….well????? Act5

ACT 6 - NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH - THE END/BEGINNING