Sermon Thirty Four The catholic spirit

john                                                                  audio clip

 

Denominations, no denominations, my denomination, your denomination. Do they matter? Are the differences the things we think of?

Well Wesley says not. Wesley suggests a very simple formula to reach out across the barriers of denomination to make friends. We are all together the melting pot that is the body of Christ.

If we put aside our differences of ritual and worship practice and look into each other’s hearts then we find this catholic spirit that is borne out of our love for each other. That universal love that is a gift from God because first he loved us. That love that allows us to accept we don’t all think alike but we have a unity of spirit. There are small differences but loads of commonality.

  1. Is your heart right with God?
  2. Do you believe in God?
  3. Do you acknowledge his greatness, wisdom and power, his justice, mercy and truth?
  4. Do you accept His authority governing everything for His glory and the good of all who love Him?
  5. Do you live each day trusting in Him, even though you can see Him?
  6. Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, crucified for us?
  7. Does he live in your heart by faith?
  8. Have you decided to put your faith in Him, rather than trusting in your own works as the way to salvation?
  9. Do you ask Him for help in living the Christian life of faith which leads to eternal life?
  10. Do you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength?
  11. Does God give you complete happiness?
  12. Do you continually praise Him and give Him thanks?
  13. With God as the centre of all your desires, are you laying up treasure in heaven and counting your earthly possessions as worthless?
  14. Has the love of God conquered your love for earthly things?
  15. Are you working for God?
  16. Are you concentrating on doing His work?
  17. Is all your conversation and business focused on glorifying God in everything, giving thanks to Him in Jesus’ name?
  18. Does God’s love make you want to serve him with respect?
  19. Which are you more afraid of – going to hell or displeasing God?
  20. Do you hate evil?

Simple innit, like.

Wow, that is one tough line of questions, search my heart O God, make me ever true.

But yes, I can honestly say yes to all except nineteen and that isn’t a yes no answer!

What about you?

I am not asking you to agree with me about hymns or prayers or language or style of preaching. Can you say yes to all these questions?

Then no matter what church you go to, we can shake hands, we have more in common to glorify His name than things of difference in the way we worship.

Giving the hand does not mean I will try and convert you to my way of doing things or vice versa. But there is so much “world” and so little “Christian” we have to work alongside each other, not keeping score but helping each other along.

love you pray for you, love me, pray for me, love together, pray together, Christians together.

Trial

The next step is video, another scary step but one I will take when the time comes. For now this is scary enough, getting used to hearing my own voice recorded, warts and all. This recording is from the service last night in Millstreet. There are things I would do differently in hindsight but don’t we love that hindsight chip. And there was one part of the message I couldn’t deliver because there were so many visitors, I will get it in sometime there, because it is a very special congregation who have taken me into their hearts. They love because first He loved them. Praise the Lord for Millstreet Methodist. Praise the Lord for their new vision of visibility. I thank the Lord that I took that scary step one day eighteen months ago and arrived into their congregation for a trial service that didn’t happen for someone else. They are a blessed bunch of people.

The first half of the sermon is not recorded and sadly it was Kirby’s last outing, she will be made into soup this week by the beautiful Eileen. Clare will be struggling with plantain and okra. I like to challenge people!

 

Sermon Thirty One How Christian faith upholds the moral law

john                                         audio clip

Wesley suggests that people are very vague over what Law it is we are to follow.

Now anybody who watches crime drama on television or is aware the story of Al Capone’s capture, knows that successful criminals keep the law of the land apart from their one area of expertise.

It may surprise the world that I have never been arrested, I have never been in the room with the table, three chairs and a tape recorder. The police or Garda Siochana have never arrived at my door to take me or indeed my husband.

Most people break the law, some don’t know they have broken it, others are more flagrant. Paying taxes, giving full disclosure on all financial transactions – do we do that? Keeping to the speed limit, all the time, not just when passing through a town or when someone flashes us to slow down for the speed camera. When we think the law is unjust so we go on our turf bank and cut the sods. When we have an illness that Cannabis helps to alleviate the pain so we grow our own. Drink is so expensive so we distill potín in our shed. We can’t afford fuel so we use the red fuel for the tractor. We cross the road – not at a crossing, jaywalking.

We break the rules or flout them in some cases. “How dare the government tell me I can’t smack my child!” Sadly I have heard this often.

But if we are vague on government laws, rules and regulations, imagine how we are with God’s rules when we no longer, or have ever picked up a bible and read it.

Some of us Christians see the commandment of love and we know God’s grace so we think that it extends to all the world. And it does but it has to be picked up. We have to cry out to Jesus to be our Saviour.

I am thinking this week about the testimony I will give on Friday. Packing all the mercy of God that was needed into two minutes is a feat I am not capable of, it took me weeks to go through every box in my attic head and ask for forgiveness. I had done so much wrong, and had had so much wrong done to me.

Last night, when I expected to sleep soundly after delivering the message (yes with mistakes and omissions and yes I did get tongue tied but in the room, there was such love for me that graciously they saw pauses) but I expected to sleep. Instead another sleepless night. Tormented by the past, remembering the face of human judgement when I told someone my story, do I want to bring that on me again? Why is there a call on my life? I have been the worst of the worst.

About five o’clock this morning a rainbow appeared in my thoughts, a rainbow of power and might, that cut through all the boxes I was lining up. That is the past and there it will stay.

That rainbow, that covenant that God has made with me through Jesus Christ, his blood shed for me at Calvary has washed me clean. There was a fair amount of scrubbing to get every last stain out but I am now clean in him. He looks at me and loves me, just as I am. And I know that is why I have a call on my life because of the conversations I am able to have with those people who think they are the worst of the worse or have had the worst done to them.

The moral law that Wesley talks about, it is the way Jesus described it, not about ticking boxes – I do not murder but in the heart being able to say, “I have had no ill thought against anyone,” and maybe it was only for a minute before an ill thought came again and then we have to throw ourselves on God’s mercy again. Live such beautiful lives that the Jesus is seen through us.

Sermon Thirty Christians must be law abiding

john                                     audio clip

This is weird to me because I remember that moment when the law that was binding me fell away. And yes as Wesley said, I behaved badly, but in doing that I realised to be lawless, unbound by the fetters of Almost Christianity, was not what was intended.

I was clearly shown two routes, one led to heaven, one to hell, one narrow, one wide. Once we are infused by the love of God, the law becomes part of it and it seems like no law because we desire to follow it, we follow it because it is written in our hearts and we can’t help but follow it. To turn away from the law and from God takes effort, physical effort to turn the head and be distracted by the world. If we are not focused on Christ that movement becomes easier, and that is why we see people drifting away ever so slowly rather than “right that is it I want to be a sinner in sinland now”

Wesley is having a theological argument at the time this is written to those called Antinomians in general and various church denominations down through the ages for example Mennonites. The argument is whether you believe you have been justified by faith alone and then can do anything or that you have been justified by faith and because of that you follow the law, I think.

To quell Mosaic law though is to quell the ten commandments among other things. One thing that fascinates me is how one verse is universally abolished and the next causes rifts in the fabric of many churches. In 2015 we shall see how our church fares. No doubt when that time comes I will write voluminously so I won’t here.

I suppose I look at the sermon and the arguments from the outside, this doesn’t really apply to me. Now there are very personal reasons why I ensure I follow the law innately, not least because I am called by the Holy Spirit to do so, because as a member of an established church with covering we are called to and because of this very tentative next step. I am not Pharisean  in my following, I have done that in the past when I didn’t call myself a Christian, I am not judgemental on those who cannot for whatever reason follow a particular law, I know my weaknesses and now I ensure I keep away from the distractions that lead me on to the wide road.

Wesley finally points to law of love as opposed to the law of fear. He is on middle ground between the “Law and nothing but the Law” and “Grace and nothing but Grace” Methodism often finds itself there, rationally sitting on the fence, others call it. Rather I call it, keeping the door open for all to come in.

Sermon Twenty Eight The Two builders

john                                  audio clip

 

Wesley spends little time pointing out those whose inwards worship was contrary to their outward ostentatious worship,  who fully expect to be in heaven but don’t arrive. He is particularly pointed at clergy who may have brought souls to Christ but themselves are not there. So he is basically talking about those under the Law who do not know the saving grace of Christ, who are not basking in the glow of his love. He himself spent many years preaching before he was saved so he has that experience. The inward assent to the Lordship of Christ, when we give our hearts, minds and bodies and souls to the Lord, that faith, belief, confidence in and assurance that grows from a mustard seed into a mighty tree with roots of faith firmly planted on the rock, Christ.

Motivation – what is your motive for doing good works, why do you feed the hungry? Clothe the naked? Preach the “good news?” For your glory? Or is all glory quite rightly directed to the Lord?

Jesus is the firm foundation on which we build our faith. That faith that itself was a gift from God. Church, the church, the guy in the pulpit or woman for that matter, they are not the foundation on which to plant your feet. Innocence from sin, piety, good works alone, are all false foundations that lead us to the broad road to everlasting damnation!

Gosh a cheery sermon this innit!

Repent of your sins, love the Lord your God with everything you have (inwardly and outwardly) love each and every human on this planet because God loves them and because he wants us to share the love he has given us.

Our religion, our motivation, our enduring convictions whatever way you want to think of that is of the heart. The fruit of Spirit springing forth from our hearts into our thoughts, words and actions. Be mild, be humble, be patient, be loving, be gentle, exert self control etc.

Sinking sand is not a good place, the dank darkness of the pit is not a good place, the good place is accepting Jesus as your Saviour and Lord and letting him rule in your life. There is a beautiful place, a wonderful peaceful place near to you, go visit, stay awhile, stay some more then stay in that beautiful place that gives you joy and is pleasing to the Lord. Be a living sacrifice to the Lord because you have been washed clean in his blood. Without the Lord nothing is possible, with him nothing is impossible!

Praise the Lord

Hallelujah!

Praise the Lord