Sermon 26~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 6

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: For they love to pray standing in the
synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the Heathen do: For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before you ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be
thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:1-15

Wesley doesn’t often use illustrations, he just expounds the verses one by one. This is a refreshing form of sermon. So often today we have to listen to endless stories that a preacher might find funny or witty. Some of them like to give us knowledge that has less to do with the text than how intelligent they are. As a writer I like “the Word became flesh,” because that is kind of what in writing we hope for; that our characters take on flesh and blood. But when God became flesh it was so much more than a character in a book being imagined into life: it was and is real.

How disappointing therefore to get a translation of logos as not meaning word at all but something like “I declare.” But then the knowledgeable person after dashing my simple understanding built me back up, literally, because he said the root of logos was lego. Lego is my favourite game to play, I love to create abstract structures out of a pile of miscellaneous rainbow coloured bricks trying to create uniqueness whilst maintaining enough balance that they don’t tumble down. So although I can no longer go word-flesh, I can go lego-flesh-body built.

Wesley did explain each phrase in this passage and applied to to our lives in a very simple manner.  The first two sections cover generosity and prayer and how we are told to wherever and whenever possible to do both in secret. Wesley points out that there are times when we think we must do it in public to show God’s glory but he warns (most verily) that we must in those cases look carefully at our motives, does anyone except God need to know?

I love his exposition of the Lord’s prayer, it could be lifted off the page and preached in this time:

It consists of three parts, — the preface, the petitions, and the doxology, or conclusion. The preface, “our Father which art in heaven,” lays a general foundation for prayer; comprising
what we must first know of God, before we can pray in confidence of being heard. It likewise points out to us all those tempers with which we are to approach to God, which are most essentially requisite, if we desire either our prayers or our lives should find acceptance with him.

He ends his discourse with a hymn which is sung to alfreton or a long meter tune. This is intended to be a paraphrase of The Lord’s Prayer. There is a beautiful hymn by Rev. Adolphus Clemens Good that is also a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer:

Father of all, who dwell’st above,
Of boundless power, and boundless love;
From world to world, diffusing free,
the tide of life and jubilee.

Jubilee, to live debt free in every sense of the word, it is life and it is worth living with the Living God.

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Sermon 25~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 5

“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you: Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For verily I say unto you: That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 6:1–15.

I was struggling with one of the commandments, it caused me to walk away from church as a teenager and when I returned it was still there: Front and centre. Joining a Bible study didn’t help, we were studying the Sermon on the Mount and so I heard what fulfilling the Law by Jesus meant and that it wasn’t about following the letter of the Law but following the explicit and implicit nature of the Law. So not only the act, but the first iota of an inkling of the act.

I spoke to one of our Local Preachers about it and they said and I quote:

“oh don’t worry about them that is why we have the New Testament we don’t have to worry about the Old Testament at all.”

Now young as I was in my faith walk this didn’t make sense, firstly if we weren’t to worry about the Old Testament then why was it still attached to the New physically in our bibles. Secondly we hear Jesus himself saying

“I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

The LP in question were themselves living a precarious life – preaching without call and preaching when preaching itself was contrary to their beliefs, but I found this out later.

But it raised queries for me and sent me on a journey of discovery of how to ‘without a shadow of doubt’ be following the ten commandments, I left the 613 other laws alone as I am partial to a fried prawn curry and my friends were not abominations.

Two things I discovered in my journey and these are vital for spiritual growth:

1. you have to ask, not just of God but of godly men and women whom you trust and listen to their replies with discernment. The wisest of the wise of humans can get it wrong sometimes too.

2. this is not a solitary journey, people walk alongside, some for a season, some for a season or two but all who walk have their own backstory and motivations.

Jesus did not land on this earth so we can read his words and go – “oh that’s nice.” No he came to change the world, change history, change us, individually – you and me.

March 2014 a vid was shown in church, to show a model of mission and specifically shown to me to raise questions about where is the mission field. Like the questions weren’t there already. A few years ago I had the privilege of viewing and touching some of the modern art held by the Methodist Church in Britain. Yes I did say touch, I couldn’t help it, it was so tactile it drew me in and I touched.

It wasn’t the Diwali madonna or the graphic depictions of the death of Christ, it wasn’t five and chips on the mountain. It was “Cross over the city,” a mixed media (Polyester, brass and mosaic, relief panel) conceptual depiction of The Cross over a city. For me it spoke missionally of housing estates where God is not known. No Pharisees live there and the law is that of the concrete jungle – the hierarchical nature of crime- controlled by the older but carried out be the very young. How do we reach those children, whose light quickly fades and is not present from the age of eight? How can hope be found for those that see life as endless drudge of pain and painkillers? Where the rite of passage into adulthood is not a ritual of confirmation into a church but a gang rape for her and needle for him and where that ritual takes place in ever lowering ages. What age will it stop?

These people do not know the commandments, do not know anything about the Lord and his saving grace, do not know anything about right from wrong. I call them people because children are humans too. How can they even hope to have the righteousness of a Pharisee with no knowledge of the Lord?

And where are we? Tucked up safely in our homes, barricaded in – lest they take out. Where we have no concept of how others live. Someone told me once that everyone has a choice. But not if they are living without choices – where children are groomed to accept whatever is thrown at them.

Jesus came for all of us, not just the twin set and pearls and suited ones, but the raggedy ones, the ones like me and you.

I may have openly struggled with one of the ten, but I was struggling for more secretly with others but until I sorted the open one I was held in grace until such a time was right, timing is everything with the Lord.

Sermon 24~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 4

“Ye are the salt of the earth. But if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
“Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Matt. 5:13–16

God loves a pure heart more than all the outward ritual, so Wesley notes that many philosophers and theologians have over the centuries suggested that a solitary worship of the Lord was preferable to corporate worship. Wesley was a proponent of social religion so he does not concur with the hermit in a cave model.

However he does allow that there is a time for personal devotion and prayer, but there is a necessity to come together not only to do “church” but for the fruit of the Spirit to be seen in the way we do “good works.” How can we share the Good News if we sit on a mountaintop in solitary confinement.

To be in solitary worship, to spend our lives away from people means that our light cannot shine and we are called to shine not hide away. Wesley talks of not only of keeping together and talking only to godly men and women but that we are to converse with all kinds of people – even those we would rather airbrush out. And if we stay away from the world how can we be the salt. How can we challenge wishy washiness? How can we challenge our lawmakers and breakers? How can we challenge wrong thinking or behaviour? … if we are not beside or in front of those people and how can others season our lives and help keep us on track.

Father God, keep us meek, keep us humble, keep us loving & giving, patient & kind. Show us Lord where to go, who to link with, help us Lord see the needs in our communities and give us the courage to step up and out to share the gospel with all we encounter. We say this in the Name of Jesus, our Saviour, Amen

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Sermon 23~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 3

“Blessed are the pure in heart: For they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: For they shall be called the children of God. “Blessed are
they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner
of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: For great is your reward in heaven: For so persecuted
they the Prophets which were before you.”

Matt. 5:8–12.

John Wesley lived the life that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount. As he aimed to be ever more Christ like, it was to Matthew 5-7 that he first came.

It is the manifesto of the Christ; the rules for life which in actuality are not rules but an inner compulsion in the way we live. It is so difficult to describe how someone can stand strong in Christ whilst being tortured or beaten. How can we explain the way we seek peace, peace on earth, peace in community and between community, peace in families and peace within.

There is an excellent object lesson by Francis Chan on temptation that is great for describing purity of heart. The best example of how not to do it is David. One minute walking closely with God  – the next committing adultery and murder. But Jesus tells us that our hearts need to stay pure not just our hearts.

At a recent men’s conference, 25% of Christian men admitted to pornography watching of some description and not in the past but in the current. And how many people are Christian and going to see 50 shades of grey? We are in the midst of a tidal wave of immorality, so much so that the release of a BDSM movie is getting mainstream coverage. Many Christians will view it and their thinking will be skewed.

Wesley stood up and fought for social justice reform, just as Jesus did. Have we forgotten this aspect of our Christian walk? Have we forgotten that an erotic bestseller firstly can lead people on a tangent but more than that, continues the exploitation of women, men and children for the sexual gratification of others.

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?

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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 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