Sermon Eighteen How holiness brings persecution

john                                                     audio clip

 

God wants our whole heart, not just a sliver. Don’t keep anything back from him, because he knows it anyway. He knows every nook and cranny. The small bit where you hold bitterness against someone in the congregation. The shard you hold for that slight made against you in a public meeting. That grain you hold because your friend didn’t see you yesterday.

LET IT ALL GO

We have to let every slight, every slander, every word spoken against us, we have to let them go. To hold on to them will destroy our relationship with God. We need to stay in relationship with him, and to do that we must keep our hearts soft.

There may be people we don’t like, we should go be with them. Be full of love towards them. Love them like you love yourself. And in time we learn to like them. Because we are all in the same race, we will all finish together, the race with the ultimate goal.

When our heart is soft and pure, we meet with the Living God, Wesley says we meet him in Communion, in bible study, in worship, in preaching. But we meet him in more places than that. We meet him in the face of the enemy who we help, we meet him when we light the fire of the elderly neighbour, we meet him when we go searching for a missing child, we meet him whilst we unblock drains and get soaked in the rain and walking in the woods and in the smile of a child and the hug of a friend and in unexpected places and in familiar surroundings we meet with God because he never leaves us if we are doing what he requires.

God is everywhere and we as believers need to see him in our every day lives. The closer we draw to him the more we see and hear him. Wesley, the academic, could never find the words to describe his transformation effectively. I, a wordsmith, know I will never be able to get across on paper or from the pulpit or from a one to one conversation words to describe the transformation that God did in me. I pray that it will be seen in the way I live my life.

Inward holiness produces good works, we become peacemakers not warmakers, we become socially responsible and spiritually responsible, and we become persecuted.

We are not persecuted in this country, we are included in the community when we allow ourselves to be included. Being set aside does not mean not being in the world. We are to be there as witness to our glorious King. How can the world see us as different if we don’t go out into the world. Our mission field is our community, our neighbours and friends, our enemies. We might get ridiculed if we are out on the street evangelising or laughed at by friends, we are to let go of these things because our hearts must remain soft to be in communion with the Lord.

Pray for those who ill treat you, Wesley says:

Watch and pray and believe and love

Sermon Seventeen Humble, righteous and merciful

john                                          audio clip

Wesley’s second sermon based on Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount encompassed humility, righteousness and mercy.

He outlines who are the humble, the ones for whom pride and arrogance have no place in their heart. Humility is about relationship. The relationship we have with God and with fellow humans. Wesley says that we should have an attitude of mildness with fellow believers and of gentleness with non-believers.

We are able to be mild and gentle because we are given the ability by the Lord through his love. Once we have experienced his grace and mercy we hunger to share that grace and mercy and love throughout the world.

Humility begins in the heart and it equips us to avoid anger, avoid name calling even to the very mild Aramaic word “Raca.” Turn the other cheek, do not argue with someone else, settle disputes no matter what the personal cost to ourselves.

We must settle disputes, in families, in communities and in churches. Too often people are ready to be offended and offend. The death of a family member can cause a rift between people that lasts for generations and all it takes to stop it, is a handshake, a hug, the giving of a piece of land. God loves us so much, he sent his only Son that whoever cleaved to him would not perish and yet we get hung up over a piece of jewellery or a dresser or a sod of turf. We eagerly, as a society, love to be offended because then we can ride roughshod over the offender. How often is someone hailed as a celebrity one minute and then shot down in a hail of bullets the next?

The barrier of pride and arrogance, that sets us up as better than someone else have to come down. We don’t know their story, we don’t walk in their shoes. We cannot say that this person is righteous and this person isn’t because we can’t see in the hearts of those people. Likewise we cannot present ourselves to the world as humble or righteous or merciful. Our actions must go before us.

One by one people are coming to know Christ because of the lives we lead, not our rhetoric from the pulpit, or our bible knowledge but the way we live authentic lives in Christ. And the lives we lead are a gift from God, we are invisible stepping stones pointing to Christ.

Righteousness is doing what God requires of us. It begins and ends with the love of God, his love for us and our response, our love for him and the love he has for all humans and the love we have for everyone too because first he loved.

We desire to do what is pleasing to the Lord, it doesn’t matter if we sing off key or we stutter over our words as long as the heart is singing and speaking. We hunger and thirst the Lord like a newborn baby thirst and hungers for milk. We long for our spiritual appetites to be filled. We yearn to spend time with the Lord and read his word and communicate with the Living God. And we pray that we never lose this urge and desire that we are always hungering and thirsting after more of Him.

The mercy that God gifts us makes us acutely aware of how many people do not know the Lord. We are tender-hearted and compassionate of those who are not yet believers and we grieve for them because we love them so.

Wesley in his third section uses the great “love” passage from 1 Corinthians again, which has been written about in previous posts.

He ends with a blistering attack on church, all churches not only the RC church but the reformed too. How churches love for another one to be in trouble and rush to mock the afflicted.

But his last few words – May your soul continually overflow with love, swallowing up every evil thought until the day when he calls you to heaven, to the kingdom of love, there to reign with him forever.

All

He sat on the side of the mountain

I sat and listened all day

To the pictures that sprang from his mouth

Of a great and beautiful place

I sat and listened to this man

A great teacher and preacher to all

He spoke gently and kindly to all of us present

And to all who would read his great words

I was included in this great picture

Lowly and dirty though I

His love crashed through the barricades

The barriers of law that kept me out

The words floated from his mouth

And nestled in my heart

A symphony of letters

Broke through hurt and pain and loss

He sat on that mountainside

Teaching good news to all

That God loves us all each one alike

And all can know that love

Sermon Sixteen Christian happiness

john                                            audio clip

Jesus sat down on a mountain side and taught. What a beautiful picture of God incarnate.

Wesley points out three things at the beginning of this sermon.

  1. The teacher – Jesus – Lord of heaven and earth
  2. What? The way to the kingdom of heaven
  3. Who? All humankind

Wesley talks about the spiritually poor as those who have not yet given their lives to Christ. So like the taxcollector who thuds his chest whilst calling himself a sinner. A while ago I was at a bible study and someone asked “Can’t we communicate with God when we haven’t sinned?” To not be a “sinner” in the presence of God suggest something that we are not. It is suggestive of perfection which we cannot even begin to comprehend let alone attain it.

God knows we are imperfect, that we are sinners but if we are authentic in our quest to be more like Christ we are acceptable to him. All he asks is that we become living sacrifices, our whole lives given over to him. We do so in love, because we are in love with the Lord. In love because our whole being is infused with his love that he gives us freely and we respond by loving.

We are right with God because he forgives us our confessed sins. We can’t water down the need for confession, we can’t in church not talk about sin, we can dress it up into other words and call it mess or stuff or whatever but we do need to talk about sin. We need to talk about forgiveness, we need to forgive ourselves.

A friend once admitted that although God had forgiven them, they couldn’t forgive themselves, poppycock. If the creator of the universe deigns to forgives us with all the mercy and grace and love necessary, who are we mere mortals to say I can’t forgive myself.

Wesley goes on to talk about those who mourn, not the ones who mourn the loss of a house, a job, a reputation. I think of a public official shamed by his drug use, pulled into the public arena to state how sorry he was. He looked more sorry for being caught than for the act. Does the size of our house matter? Does the size of our payslip matter? We are here for such a short time, surely our time should be spent on Godly matters. God matters first, the rest comes because of God.

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

What can separate us from the love of Christ?

Mourning an absent God?

Joy of the love of Christ sustains us through life’s difficulties, shields us, protects us, nutures us, challenges us, encourages us, loves us. God is with us, Emmanuel.

Day nine getting niggly in the detail

Don’t people love numbers, they like them black not red, they like them positive not negative, the older we get the more often we get our age in the conversation. We like time too, at this time I will do that, in three days I will do the other.

Are we ruled by them? Once a friend told me we would leave at 8:23, I nearly fell off my chair. This is Ireland, we are never on time. I have been without my glasses for a number of months and so only the 12, 3, 6 and 9 on a clock were clearly visible. Everything as a result got a little bit blurry and hazy. Time began to mean less, number I couldn’t see failed to register as important.

Driving I could not see the digital display clock or the speedometer for that matter so I drove slower and more precisely than with glasses. Today I picked them up at the opticians and was able to see properly, the shopkeeper, the displays, my reflection in the mirror, gosh my hair was a mess.

Numerology of course is the study of number things. There was a whole movement within Christianity that tried to unlock the number codes in the Bible. But all the numbers in the world don’t mean squat compared to this.

To Jesus we are one, I am one and you are one. He knows each of us better than anyone else. He knows the hairs on our head. He knows us. How wonderful, how marvelous is that!

As I spend time with Wesley I am beginning to realise that here was an academic who knew bucketloads of stuff but it didn’t mean squat till he became a new creation in the Lord. Until the Lord could see Wesley through Jesus’ eyes his life was meaningless, just like ours were before Christ.

Being articulate does not make you a child of God, book learning does not make you a child of God, only true, sincere, authentic acceptance as Christ as our Lord and Saviour with his grace, mercy and love abounding in our hearts and lives.

What a Saviour

Oh Lord I thank you for that saving grace that sought me out and changed my world inside out, put me on this rollercoaster which is scary and exciting and I wouldn’t miss one second of it. Thank you Lord for all the people you have put beside me, to help, to encourage, to challenge, to rebuke and correct me. I thank you for the Holy Spirit that ever guides my way. I am an empty vessel for you to use as you will. Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord. Amen