Sermon 22~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 2

“Blessed are the meek: For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: For they shall
obtain mercy.”

Matt. 5:5–7

Meekness and Majesty is one of the songs I love to sing, it is a song of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, God enters into our life – knows exactly what it is like to be human. Son of God becomes a vulnerable babe – knows exactly what it is like to be tempted. Meekness and Majesty, Jesus lived a humble life, a life of giving in time, energy and wisdom, a life of healing, preaching and teaching – that is the meekness – a life of quietness and gentleness, and then majesty… Jesus left his throne, but was still that Majesty whilst here on earth.

Are you still thirsty for Him? Do you still hunger to hear the word? Are you aiming (still) to be Christ like? Or is getting all a little bit weary? Is your worship a little flat? Prayers intermittent?

There is a new children’s online encyclopedia, run by Dorling Kindersley and went to have a looksee. I searched “Jesus” and got three hits, none would tell children about Jesus. So I put in “Holy Spirit” and got nine hits. If a child wanted to know about the holy spirit on this site they would learn about Native Americans, Diwahli, Egyptian mummification, cave paintings and Vikings. They can even learn about the surface of Mars but they don’t get to hear about the Holy Spirit.

To learn about Christ they would meet the Basilisk Lizard. Is something wrong with this picture? DK are a respected book brand, their children’s books are great with lots of pictures and interesting facts, they sell eight different Bibles for children so why can children not look up Bible people and events, why can they not learn about Noah and Abraham, Peter and Paul.

When did we get all a little bit weary, that this way of living is normal. When our children can be subject to every other concept of god except God. When did we stop hungering and thirsting to allow such wishy washy living be the normal?

When did you last show mercy? When were you last shown mercy? Love is not rash or hasty in judging. Love extends mercy and it is on this extending that some people meet Jesus for the first time. 96% of the world’s population recognise the  Coca Colalogo, how many have heard the Good News? In the UK only 25% of people believe in God or a supreme being which means that less than 25% believe in God. There are no statistics available for Ireland but it is likely it is less than it was last year and the year before that.

What are we willing to do about this? How can we show mercy and in doing so extend the invitation from Christ to all?

test3-scaled1000

Sermon 21~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 1

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: And  when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: For they shall be comforted.”

Matt. 5:1–4

poor in spirit

This is the first of thirteen discourses on the Sermon on the Mount, I am sure Wesley preached on it more than that because this is the crux of the social justice & holiness threads of Methodism.

This is the Methodism I experienced as a child, the love of God expressed not only in church but in the way the Northern women in two-up, two-downs lived and loved with each other. Eileen was sick, her fifth child was under two, her eldest causing chaos around the village at seventeen, her world was falling apart, her travelling salesman husband was beginning to see the lodger’s eyes in the fourth and fifth children. The lodger seemed more at home there than the husband. There were bruises and much walking into doors. The women of the street took over. The children were sheltered in neighbouring houses, the lodger moved in down the road and Eileen and her husband were given time to themselves and with the local Minister. The result some months later was an amicable separation and two years later Eileen married the lodger who adopted all the children and began helping the oldest rehabilitate after borstal and prison. The women met Eileen and her family not full of false piety, they met them in love, and there was accountability and consequences but most of all was LOVE.

Wesley talks of the poor in spirit not in earthly terms of poverty but as humble people who know they have sinned, know they have fallen short and cannot do anything in themselves to gain righteousness. The humble who fall at the foot of Cross knowing there is nothing they can DO to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and lay themselves naked before the Lord confessing their sin, repenting of their sin and receiving forgiveness (which they did not deserve) and stand with a slate wiped clean.

Still sound hoity toity! Let’s make it personal. I is a good word to start with. I fell at the foot of the Cross, I lay all my sins before Him, I confessed over many days my sins, I repented of them and I received forgiveness and I accepted that I had been forgiven and I can stand with a slate wiped clean. Christ in dying on the Cross atoned for MY sin, for my sin that was, is and still to come. He atoned for all our sin. Because it was needed, there was nothing we could do to get back the relationship that Abraham and Moses and the prophets had with God. There was a gaping hole, and there was nothing anyone could DO to bridge it – except… God himself came down to earth, where he lived as a man, he was fully a man whilst being fully divine, he taught and preached, he healed, he met people in dire circumstances – he touched a leper, he came to fulfil the Law, and we – humanity tortured, battered and bruised him, we laughed and scoffed at him and we drove nails through his body and hung him on a tree. But in dying on that Cross, making it look like the world and the devil had won. He snatched victory, the veil was torn and he died to atone for our sin. When he rose again and stayed in resurrected form for some time he continued to walk with his disciples a small while before ascending to heaven. Mission accomplished. Relationship restored, there was now a way for us into the Kingdom of Heaven, the door stays open for us – all we have to do is turn to him, turn to Christ and begin that process of life ever after which starts with a humble heart and one word SORRY.

Sermon 20~~~{The Lord our Righteousness}

“This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.”

Jer. 23:6

Wesley finds himself once more in the middle of a religious dispute. He really does seem to take the middle road on many doctrinal issues. He has a logical, rationalising mind that methodically looks at all the evidence and then responds in a measured way.

He first speaks of how disagreements turn away people from the church. And in turning away from the church turn away from the Lord: sinners openly wanting to know Christ and yet constrained to “weep secretly” because of arguments amongst denominations over this or that.

The “this” in sermon 20 is indeed a page turner. The truth of “The Lord our righteousness” Wesley argues enters deep into the nature of Christianity and supports the framework of it. Wesley is shocked that not all who follow Christ would agree on this issue. The righteousness of Christ is in the first instance a divine righteousness – He is the Son of God, equal in divinity with Him. Secondly there was his righteousness as human, this is the internal and external righteousness that he carried with him as human.

I only heard the word impute in a sermon three weeks ago and didn’t know its meaning. On locating the definition I spent some time with all the different meanings and especially on the obsolete meaning to charge a person with a fault but that meaning is in the context of another sermon where sin was imputed. A charge of sin is against all of us.

I therefore find interesting this alternate idea of imputation, that of vicariously attributing a quality that belongs to one person on another. I think that if God could not look on me without looking through the eyes of Christ, i.e. through the righteousness of Christ because God cannot be where there is sin. Christ is our bridge, our righteous bridge that allows the conversation flow once more.

I recall when someone came one time talking of being sanctified and righteous I got awfully muddled because he was a nice guy and all that but if we are in this broken world we are sinners, due in first part to the original sin in the Garden of Eden and then because our human nature gives in so easily to temptation.

Last week I was walking with a bunch of people who wanted to go into an amusement arcade (gambling den) for me and my past I so did not want to enter. I subscribe to the Methodist non gambling rule because a) it suits me not to gamble and b) if I were to I would be ruined. Nevertheless I entered in and stood in this tempting arena, I stood steadfast and sure, praying in my heart for continued deliverance from the surrounding temptations. Others were at home in the surroundings and joined in with the gambling. One person noticed my detachment and suggested a walk, which I gladly took thanking the Lord for protection.

I am not full of righteousness, every day is battle with the temptations that lurk in the cobwebs of my mind. But in Christ is the victory, in Christ I am seen by the Father as righteous because Christ died for my sin and fully atoned for all of my sin. He took all my guilt, all my shame, all my back story and it died with Him on the Cross and when he burst from the grave I was set free, free to follow Him all the days of my life.

Now try to get me to say that under duress and you’ll get maybe John 3:16 if you are lucky.

Wesley when he wrote his sermons wrote in plain English for his time. When I write mine I write them in plain English for my time. But the sentiment, the kernal of truth, the truth that is indestructible is very much unchanging. In recording this sermon I was reminded of the first time I attempted to question someone on their theology. They had spoken from a platform of authority that “God didn’t have to be good, he chose to be good.” In my head I was thinking “No, God is good, it is one of his character traits, he didn’t choose it any more than I can choose not to have inherent addiction issues.” He is good, God is good all the time. Of course I didn’t get an answer from the person except to question the theological proclivities that I had and was passed off as an experiential comment rather than his eternal nature.

The doctrine of imputed righteousness is from the Reformed tradition, Wesley and Methodism does not believe we can state our righteousness in the present moment, in our situations so full of temptation and sin. We are made acceptable to the sight of God only through Christ and the moment our eye gets distracted we are back in the world. A friend said at the weekend, we can only get through “xxx” with our eyes fixed solely on Him. True words spoken.

Noni travels

This was written in June 2014, the full story has been given away

The whistle blew in the factory just as Noni had lathered the slipper sole liberally with glue. Her hand hovered as she contemplated just putting it down and not completing the menial task but years of training forced her to apply it to the slipper and sending it off for pressing.
She took off her work pinny and replaced it with her basic pale blue cardigan, a woman of no frills or fusses, Noni had worn the same kind of clothes all her life. She had one good pair of black low heeled shoes for weddings, funerals and services on Sunday, the rest of the time found her in the slippers she worked on, the ones that didn’t pass through the searing eyes of Mrs. Quintet, the supervisor. She would in the old days have been the foreman but new words had to found when they allowed women take on roles above their previous station.
Hosiery for Noni meant full tights with a cotton gusset, her cousins in Romchester worked at the hose factory and she received a parcel of off cuts once a year at Christmas, family looked after their own was the byline of all the families in this northern town with its stone walls and stone employers. There was never enough money for wage increases and yet the gas and electric kept going up and the price of flour was shocking.
Her wardrobe contained three skirts, a black one for funerals, a navy blue one for formal occasions and the grey A line skirt for everyday use. She would never wear trousers and the mere thought of denim jeans brought a flush to her cheeks.
Jeans were not the only thing to make Noni blush, she was shy, painfully so, unable to join in the crude banter of the married women around her and too old to join in with the young single ones that she found brash and vulgar with their lipstick and chewing gum. They drank in the bars like men and Noni just couldn’t bring herself to join any of their conversations. It was a different world to the one she was brought up in.
This evening though, as that whistle blew, it was Noni’s last day, last slipper, last time with these women she knew nothing about. There were a few sandwiches and tea put on by the bosses and all the women wished her well. Mrs. Quintet presented her with flowers and a photo was taken. When Mr. Hogarth came in to the room, the chatter ceased and he gave a short speech, commending Noni on her work ethic and longevity. When he got to the point where he said, “Miss Brewster has been with us forty six years….,” the women whistled behind her. She had a good twenty years on any of them. She worked with their mothers and aunts and had seen many come and go.
She straightened down her plain, cream blouse, and managed a quick thank you before scurrying out. In the locker room she retrieved her purse and flattened down her hair, forever it wanted to kick up a fuss but she pushed it down at every opportunity to the tidy grey bob she kept now.
She wondered if anyone knew her plans, whether they were trying to work out what she was going to do as they finished off the egg and cress sandwiches or did they just go back to berating their children and husbands as they did each work day. For them it was back to work on Monday, for Noni it was the beginning.
The suitcase was ready at the door and she dropped the keys off at McGinley’s on the corner with instructions to pass them on to the estate agents on Monday. The house was being compulsorily purchased by the council for the new road. She was the last to leave, Billy Grimshaw, was the same as when they were in Miss Pickles’ junior class. Just as cheeky and full of life. She didn’t know what came over her as she poured out her plans to him over tea, that Saturday months ago. Afterwards she thought perhaps it was because he knew her as a child before, well before she went to work in the mill. Billy was in charge of the row of terraced houses the council needed, it was his job to help the residents find a different place to live but because he knew Noni’s plans he let her stay two months longer than the others.
He also took to visiting on a Saturday afternoon for tea with one or more of his grand kids in tow. Lovely children, full of chatter and curiosity, just like Billy had been. They chatted about the old Junior School, long since torn down and they teased his grand kids with tales of birch switches and Miss Pickles’ world famous temper. Back then kids took it on the chin and just got on with it, nowadays parents were up and down to the new school complaining about this and that.
Noni was at the bus stop waiting for the bus to Manchester, she was early. There was a young couple in the first few baby steps of a relationship sitting next to her having a stilted conversation, probably the first or second date she thought. A loud banging stopped her daydreams as the whole Grimshaw clan, even Katie Clark as Noni thought of her, Billy wife. The children were there, all seven of them and each had at least one babe in arms and a toddler or young child at their feet. Then came their spouses, Billy was very proud that all his children married and none were living over the brush. Following them were a rag tale band of onlookers wondering what all the noise was about. The noise Noni saw immediately were Billy’s eldest’s children, twins Rachel and Teresa, seven years old and full of mischievous bangs and scrapes. They had two dustbin lids each and impromptu cymbals were made. Billy’s doing, she thought.
Billy hushed the crowd just as the bus was pulling in and shouted at the top of his lungs “Noni Brewster, go get ’em, and send us a postcard when you get where you’re going!”
The first postcard arrived to the Grimshaw home two weeks later. I picture of the beach in Nice on the front, on the back, in the small script she had learned as a child, she brought them into France with her, the markets, the style, the people and at the end telling them she was moving on after having her hair styled.
Billy sat and stared as Katie put her large flapping arms around him. “She was always different, Bill, but I never in a million years thought she’d have the guts for this.”
“Ee, lass, come here. You never knew her at Juniors, she were just like us all till that last year. It broke a lot of lasses, did that one, Noni survived and now let’s watch her go. It isn’t for us, we’re as content as two love doves, but her, she needs to, what do they say nowadays, she needs to find herself. Beneath that egg she’ll is a beautiful chick, she just has to get at it.”
“You’re a right soft lumpeth and no mistake, Billy Grimshaw.”
Just as the nights were drawing in and the smell of coal fires filled the streets the next postcard was waiting on the the table next to his dinner when Billy got home. “She is after getting to Prague, Bill.” Katie shouted from the larder.
He read the postcard slowly as he chewed on the braised steak and onions. She seems lighter in tone he thought. She needed to, she was like tightly coiled spring taking on the tension of the world. He was surprised on their re-acquaintance that she was still chapel going. He had long since given up, so long ago he wasn’t sure if Katie’s kin had ever gone. He had five more years to work before he could make a plan, it wouldn’t be anything like Noni’s. Maybe a small bungalow at Southport for all the clan to assemble, or there was a cottage in the folds of the hills a couple of miles away. Close enough for family but far enough away for unwanted neighbours. As if bringing them onto himself, Sally and John from next door started a slanging match. From the sounds he could tell one was up and one was down. He thought about Katie, never had a cross word passed her lips until that Saturday he called on Noni. When she had calmed down he stirred up the mud again by insisting on going again. “You’ll take at least one of the small ones with you, if you do, I am not entering my sixties with an affairing husband, I am not!”
So that was the deal, he could visit with Noni but only if one of the grandkids went too. They loved the trips to Noni’s and being with Granddad so they were pleasant trips. Billy skirted around that last year in school but Noni either didn’t or couldn’t remember and he didn’t want to push it.

BrainChain

What goes on on our surface quite often isn’t what is really happening inside. Like a pond, calm on the surface but underneath teeming with life. Our minds on the surface, get us through the day, reminding us of directions, time to refuel, time to rest. I was reminded of this last night, I had intended to do some editing and hopefully add the “male” story to the “Tattered Affair” I had an inkling of what I wanted to do with it: Empathetic treatment of the male character. Settling down to write after everyone was in slumberland, I couldn’t focus, all my intentions gone and in it’s place giant yawns that were so tremendous my eyes leaked. So I trotted off to bed and slept for a couple of hours, refreshed I got back to it but didn’t finish what I intended, instead drew BrainChain (above)


The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6 (NIV)

 

My brain was reminding me that sometimes it is important to rest. Imagine all the synapses that take place in the head for the yawn to begin. The linking of a nerve to nerve to reflex. A brain is a powerful organ, how many of us prefer to watch the vagarities of situations play out on our television screens about characters that don’t exist rather than vagaries of our own minds.

As Christians our minds and hearts are linked spiritually in a beautiful wonderful way that allows our minds to expand, our thirst to know Christ more, to know but more than know to feel and know. There are no brain synapses and nerve responses to be in this place, no physiological reminders to be with God, to study his word, to burst out singing in praise, to pray, to just be quiet in his presence.

When we have this thirst for Christ, we don’t need the reminders because we just do it, we want to do it, we need to do it, to be immersed in his love. The outside part maybe going through the motions of daily life, travelling to work, getting kids ready, spending time with partners but inside there’s a whole gamut of teeming life. The balance of this, balancing daily chores with spending time with the Lord, what balance. Because that’s the beauty of the Lord. He is with us all the time, he is there when we are jumping for joy and when we face into cleaning the bathroom, he is there when we grieve and he’s there when we are laughing in fellowship. He is there.

If he is there all the time, what a waste to remain like a mill pond, the image I keep getting is that of someone bursting through the water surface and grabbing a huge gulp of air. Let the life that is teeming under the surface burst into the air, show the world the changes God has made in us, when we let ourselves tentatively do this, we can’t stop, the joy we feel is palpable, we can’t hide it, it is obvious and real. I may not have written an empathetically ‘male’ narrative but I learned a bit more about brain activity, links and chains.