grace

avoiding the cup

I just couldn’t pretend

that all was well

“tickety boo”

and I avoided the cup

I wanted to scream and shout

and jump up and down

My prayer life suddenly

precisely vile and lent

thank God he is bigger

than any self pitying

tantrum I could raise.

I thank God that he is bigger

in love for me than I

deserve.

I thank God for the guy

and for flick on the back of my head.

I thank God and crawl

to turn over the page

 

Surprise cancellation

My last words to the guy tonight were, “well, we have a God of surprises.”

The evening hadn’t turned out the way we had planned it, instead God made it epic. The path we had chosen was full of technology and path we were given was of hearts meeting, lives being touched, moments of grace.

I had almost cancelled the meeting altogether, I could fill my time doing something else but I remembered the guy saying how he looked forward to it. So I cancelled everything else and hauled ass to meet.

Solving one technological issue and about to start another, a sound disturbed the techie talk. On investigation, we found two ladies who wanted to join us. Technology was left behind as we instead delved into a letter written a long, long time ago. 

Two more people came in, urgently in need of prayer. And so our night became something special where heaven and earth kiss. Bonding of hearts across denominational barbed wire, moved hearts as we shared our witness, as stories were shared and prayers prayed.

Seven random people crowded my life today, only one of which I knew before today. None of whom knew the inner turmoil I had faced in the last twenty four hours. All brought blessings with them, all, I believe sent to utter wordlessly ‘onward sister onward.’

I finished today with a missive to a lady who wanted one more card, I wonder where that will lead us both…

4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. Romans 12 (msg)

Sermon 16 ~~~{The Means of Grace}

“Ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.”

Mal. 3:7a

It is necessary to contextualise this sermon: John Wesley was a minister in the Church of England and he preached within the walls of C of E churches as well as his well known evangelical outdoor preaching. Whenever he preached he robed up, as in he put on the robes of a Minister no matter where he was. So although he was preaching about inward growth and the work of the Spirit he did it within the confines of the liturgy of the established church. He did not preach to people to ignore the rituals but to embrace them as being useful, helpful and a way to know more of the Lord.

This sermon therefore is not a rhetoric against the ordinances or rituals of the church but it does raise questions about them. To Wesley, who believed these means of grace to be a way to know Christ, prayer and devotion, meditation and partaking in the Lord’s Supper were vital to a person not only growing in faith but also a very real way in which God could meet a seeker or ‘almost Christian’ or mature in the faith Christian or an all-in-all Christian.

If we do not believe we are communicating with the Living God when we pray – why do we do it?

He describes the means of grace as the outward signs, words or actions, ordained by God to be the ordinary channels whereby He conveys to us prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace.

The chief means of grace is prayer whether the secret prayers of the heart in our own language, private prayers locked in a press or public praying with ordinary folk like us in as part of a congregation. Secondly reading, hearing and meditating on scripture, and receiving the Lord’s Supper.

There is no power in the stuff we do, no power in prayer or the words of Scripture or indeed Communion but that God alone who is the giver of every good gift, the author of all grace, that the whole power is of him and him alone, so that any blessing we receive through one of these means of grace, is given by His power not because we stood in a particular way, or bowed really low or lived a life in a distinct or peculiar way.

Wesley talks of profit which we no longer use in his understanding of the word. Useful and helpful would translate well into his phrase:

We allow, likewise, that all outward means whatever, if separate from the Spirit of God, cannot profit at all, cannot conduce, in any degree, either to the knowledge or love of God.

People contend that Wesley’s concept of prevenient grace in particular is not effectively theologically sound. However if a boat was capsizing all the people on board will be praying, and praying to God because in that moment of facing death clarity is everything. They say “How can a person pray who does not have faith?” But to say this belittles God’s immense power and love.

Wesley often spoke about Communion as a means of grace and in the last year I have been on a journey of discovery with the Lord’s Supper and I can think of nothing more beautiful than celebrating Communion and seeing someone being beautifully brought to the foot of the Cross and confessing & repenting for the first time.

Wesley ends this sermon with these amazing and challenging words:

You see, you know,
you feel, God is all in all. Be abased. Sink down before him. Give him all the praise. “Let
God in all things be glorified through Christ Jesus”. Let all your bones cry out,” My song
shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord: With my mouth will I ever be telling of
thy truth, from one generation to another!”

 

Sermon Five ~~ Justification by Faith

Have you ever been racked with guilt and shame that your bones ached? The guy that wrote Psalm 32 knows all about it. His bones were wasting away and his strength was being sapped out of him. He was in a really bad place. Do you relate?

Imagine being told that all you had to do was turn to Jesus, confess and repent and all (YES ALL) would be forgiven, that the past would never be revisited (although there may be consequences) and it would never be brought up again.

When I sit down to dinner with certain people, that is all they want to do, rake up the past, bring every last unpalatable morsel to the table and wonder why I have no appetite.

Because of Je–sus. There is no condemnation. We are justified freely by his
grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Notice the words:

FREELY              GRACE                              REDEMPTION

CHRIST

Freely justified

Free grace

Free redemption

Follower of Jesus for free.

Justified means pardoned, there is no community service, no sentence – deferred or otherwise. There is freedom and it is free.

When we choose to be followers of Jesus we are pardoned from all sin. He shows his mercy and we accept forgiveness…

And then the real work begins … santification, being made righteous over time (lots and lots of it)

Having been physically ill from guilt is a powerful thing, not in itself, but when the guilt is gone, lifted, to be seen no more, the freedom is mighty.

Three poems…

Over the last three weeks I have been focusing on essays I must write without actually putting pen to paper. What happened instead was an outpouring of bad poetry on each of the three themes: all can be saved, Holy Communion and reviewing a book.

On Writing A Book Report

Clathrate of believers

                Not an enclave or conclave

But a lacy network

That grows in the Spirit

 

Antrorse facing people

With outstretched arms to all

                Not an enclave or conclave

But a lacy network

That grows in the Spirit

 

Adducent followers

Focusing on the Cross

Not an enclave or conclave

But a lacy network

That grows in the Spirit

All Can Be Saved – even you and me

God’s love is everlasting

His love is ever true

God’s love is just and perfect

Free to all of us

 

God’s love is for all

Everyone including you

God’s love is for all

Everyone including me.

 

God’s grace is so unending

Fathomless and ever so deep

Undeserved favour waiting

For me and for you.

 

God’s love is for all

Everyone including you

God’s love is for all

Everyone including me.

 

God’s mercy, oh God’s mercy

Gives all a real Hope

Of forgiveness to its fullest

Of life eternally.

 

God’s love is for all

Everyone including you

God’s love is for all

Everyone including me.

 

Meeting at the Table

Come, come

Come to the table

 

Come, come

Meet Him today

 

Come, come

Lay yourself bare

 

Come, come

Experience life

 

Come, come

Open your heart

 

Come, come

Accept the Lord in

 

Come, come

Blessed assurance

 

Come, come

Christ is the King

Sermon Thirty Nine The new birth

john                                                                   audio clip

 

Wesley, I just love him and the way he describes the new birth. I mean I know he can’t describe it, that no matter how large a vocabulary you have it remains indescribable. I often think that CGI guys have an inkling of it but still there is more to it. I think that is why I remained silent about it for so long. Even using the imagery at my disposal both in terms of language, image and auditory perception I cannot fully describe it. Tardis thinking – the Tardis has a brain and a heart and it is bigger on the inside than the outside. George’s grandmother – when George feeds her medicine she grows and grows bigger than the house with her arms out of the window. Being swept under the surf in a riptide with no breath like in the Water Babies and then discovering breath as if for the first time. Alex Mack – morphing under doors and transforming on the other side. It took 3 ghosts to change the ways of Scrooge, perhaps Dickens was trying to describe this rebirth. Or maybe again from Dr Who the gestalt race of telepathic humanoids,  the Ood or Oodkind with their connectors in their hands. So much imagery, so much language but never enough.

For Wesley it was a strange warming of his heart, Bless him, it was more than that but quite rightly he doesn’t get into semantics about it and less is more often. He states that clearly in scripture it says we must be reborn. Before the Fall we had His natural form – immortal, understanding, freedom of will and various affections, we had His political image – we were to govern the earth having power over all creatures and we had His moral image – which as Paul puts it reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy (Ephesians 4:24) God is love and we were created full of it. God is just, merciful, truthful and so were we. God is pure and once we were so pure that God could look on everything he had created and was pleased by what he saw.

After the Fall we were unholy and unhappy and so we come into the world spiritually dead, born into a sinful world and so must be reborn.

I believe that everyone who is transformed by the Holy Spirit, i.e. reborn, has a unique story to tell – that they cannot tell in full. For a start we cannot know Holy Spirit does the work in us, we just know it has been done. A whole new way of thinking, speaking and acting takes us over. We can actually marvel over some of the words tumbling out of our mouths because they are not of our making. We wonder over the patience we have shown or the joy we have felt, not being boastful, just sort of looking at us from a different angle.

One of my mature Christian friends told me they were in awe of how I was handling a particular situation. I was doing nothing except what I was told to do by the Spirit. I was, if anything, obedient to the will of God and again I don’t say this lightly and full of pride. I equally can point to moments when I dug my heels in and basically said “Spirit be gone, I refuse”

New birth is necessary, without it we will not see the Lord. Follow all the rules you want, feed the poor clothe the hungry but without rebirth you will not experience the love God has ready for you.

God loves everyone on this planet but you must accept that love through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and that is the New Birth. Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.

Sermon Thirty Eight Original sin

john                                                             audio clip

 

Wesley speaks a lot of sense about original sin. It is that which is in us that comes from our past life before we were transformed by Holy Spirit. So overwhelming is our human nature that sometimes our first thought comes from there and not of God.

It is like driving a car with a lean to the left, you are driving forward but in order to go straight you must adjust for the leaning. If you do not adjust you end up in a ditch. And that’s what happens to us. A family member struggled with pill addiction for some time and eventually kicked the habit. One day he was invited to a friend’s house, a friend from those pill days. If he had been adjusting his steering he would have said no, but he had forgotten and bang straight into the ditch. The “friend” made tea and lined up loads of pills and said “it’s your choice.” He sat staring at these brightly coloured jewels of mind control, then his friend got some coke out and arranged it in a beautiful clear white line and then he got his own drug paraphernalia out, a spoon, some tubing, a syringe and his delightful white-ish delight. Again he said “Your choice.” And my dear, dear friend and family member succumbed to his temptation and he is living in it now.

This sermon has one of the first words I did for http://thewritepractice.com/ Antediluvian. Now I know that when you get used to a word it becomes part of your vocabulary, but although it is a lovely word I prefer to say, ‘before the flood’

Before the flood God found that everyone was wicked. Their thoughts were evil all the time. Their inward spirit, their heart was rotten to the core. I have picked my two apples this year and one was sweet and lush and the other looked good on the outside but inside was black and brown all the way to the middle, the core.

We can lead, ostensibly ‘good’ lives but our core can be a putrid nuclear waste dump. Our outside conveying to the world someone who is righteous honest and true but on the inside, yuk.

We have to acknowledge, not just mental assent, but with our hearts that without God we are like the antediluvians, we are rotten to the core. When God opens our eyes to the stinky mess that are lives are, we realise we have been living in our own strength. We don’t know God. We may or may not have heard of him. I know there is president of the united states, I know his name, I have heard him speak but I don’t know him well. I don’t know him well enough to invite him to my house. But if I did I would get the troops in to clean the place, make it spotless. I don’t know him well enough to invite him into my home as it is today, with one warm room, broken heating system, dust piling up everywhere, a spillage in the kitchen, don’t even think about the bathroom and don’t go looking in any rooms. I know it is a tip, a mess, a putrid stinky hole. I don’t know Obama enough to invite him into that. When we don’t know God or with only mental assent – we are saying to him come and have tea but let me clean myself first. Do you see that – me   myself.

The Lord meets us in our putrid mess, he tells us it is a putrid mess and he gives us the tools needed to clean it up BUT he stays with us, rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck into the cleaning.

There was a historian, I so hate the experiments done to people in the name of science and this is further evidence that learned people do not consider proles to be as human as they. This historian arranged for two new born babies to be brought up in the wild by themselves to see if they developed language. They didn’t.

A child who is brought up without God in their lives will not know Him. Wesley states that to know God is not innately within us. We have to experience Him to know Him. We have to experience His love to know his love and even then we may be so full of the world we don’t notice it.

We separate God from our lives, He is there and we are here. If he had to go through what we are going through he would lie, cheat, steal, rape, murder too. We make it out that we are going through some awful thing that cannot possibly be described. But even if today we are sitting in a prison cell, being urinated on, being beaten whatever it is, we are never going to go through what Christ did.

He was blameless, perfect, without sin, he didn’t have this innate ability to veer off to the left. He had a mission, he came and saw out that mission living on earth as we do, he understood the human condition and then he died a horrific, tortured, naked, vulnerable death not for himself. He could’ve taken himself to the Father at anytime. He died so we might live. He died to atone for all our sins, he died so we might know the undeserved favour of the King, that we might know the incredible mercy and the endless pure love he has for us.

Jesus came to this world because of the Fall, and the fallen creatures – us. God knows us, knows us well, it is time for us to reciprocate, to spring clean our hearts and minds with him, because of him, only through him.

He came as a physician to heal, he meets us in our spiritual sickness and he ministers to us. He holds us in his loving arms and lets us breathe in his sweet, sweet perfume. He gives us strength to get rid of the sin in our lives. All the time, loving us to the utmost. He loves everyone, he wants for everyone to know him well. So we can invite him into our messy lives and sit with us.

Wesley concludes “Now go on further in your Christian life until your spiritual sickness is completely healed and you have the same mind Jesus had – Philippians  2:5

Amen