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

Sermon Twenty Seven Beware of false prophets

john                                                audio clip

Wesley used this passage to attack the established church’s ministers or clergy. He accused them of saying one thing and living another way but more than that he accused them of false teaching.

I wonder how he would take the tele-evangelists of our generation or the webcasts etc. It is easier to pick holes in teaching when it is on a screen than when it is in church. I am friends with someone who used to preach but who didn’t believe it was their place to teach. They believed, based on gender, that they were prohibited to teach and yet they still preached. So everything they said was false, right? No they were still used as an instrument by God to preach but their life did not follow their teaching.***

I have a friend who says she is totally submitted to her husband and yet a more hen-pecked husband I have yet to meet. She tells him when to stand and how to stand. What she says is not what she does. She has preached to me from a pulpit in a church about this submission and because I knew her, and knew how she lived her life, it tainted the message I may have heard from someone else.***

I have a preacher friend who has brilliant repartee, wonderful rhetoric, a person who you could listen to all day with their lilting Southern US accent, she waxes lyrically on scripture, there is always a hook that attaches itself to your emotions and a whole swathe of us end up in tears. She is a false prophet, I know it and yet I listen to her because she is my friend and I love her. I listen objectively and with discernment. I know she believes that she has laid out a good argument because we talk about it over lunch. She is well read and academically able but she is a false prophet. She ignores the Old Testament, barely touches Jesus and if I were to call her anything I would say she was a follower of Paul.***

We can be amongst false prophets and we can still take something from their preaching, but we must be careful not to buy into everything they say or do. A friend of mine has issues with her church teaching on two subjects. She struggles so much with this because she has been taught that the pastor is without error ( a bit like the Bible being without error but this is a human) that the pastor cannot be questioned. So if you are hearing what you believe to be false teaching in that church what do you do?

I was a participant in a bible study one day and stated something that I believed to be true. Within a day someone had collared me to say I was wrong and showed me in the Bible where my error lay. I like that kind of church. The kind where if you are in error someone comes alongside and corrects you gently and in love.

False prophets are everywhere and we need the full armour of God to help us discern these woves in sheep’s clothing.

***Kerry disclaimer – none of the false prophets above live in Kerry and know my thoughts and are still friends***

Sermon Twenty Six The two gates

john                                                         audio clip

 

What follows a dry one, a rip roaring, face flushing rhetorical rant. Oh Wesley at his best, flailing arms and stamping feet. If people didn’t rush to the narrow gate after listening to this, their ears were surely closed.

Wesley’s main point is there is only one right way to be, to live, to leave this mortal coil but there are thousands of ways we can miss the narrow gate.

The world tries to blend us into it, telling us lies like there are shades of grey when there really is only black and white, right and wrong. When the lines get smudged we are in danger of leaving the boreen leading to the Kingdom of heaven and joining the highway leading to hell.

We know what is wrong? Or do we? We sometimes blend compassion for others in a particular situation with saying it is okay for that situation to exist.

I had a very surreal conversation today. We were talking about Jesus pitching his tent in our hearts when the other person said “Do you really believe there’s a God?” Bear in mind that if we are mid flow talking about tents and tabernacling this was not someone who came to know Jesus yesterday. You see every day, we need to look at ourselves and make sure the insidious nature of the world hasn’t seeped into our life. We need to be in conversation, with the Living God because it is when we stop doing that, the tendrils of the world take hold. When we remain focused on Him and live our lives through him we can keep distractions at bay, whatever they may be.

In another conversation the word manipulate was used and I automatically in my mind changed it to distraction. Because we can only be manipulated by someone if we are not deocentric. If God is the focus of our lives we can dismiss the distractions because we can measure what a person says by scripture, we can pray, we can talk to God about it. He wants us to end the race in heaven with all the other believers, so keeping on the boreen is hard, and in our own strength impossible but with the Spirit guiding us, a lamp to our feet, we can stay marching, ever forward.

God has a call on all our lives to proclaim the good news in our everyday lives. We don’t have to travel to do it. We witness in our families, in our neighbourhoods and communities and in our vehicles. A guy with an icthus bumper sticker has road rage – what is wrong with this image? A woman in the shop gets impatient in the queue and makes a cutting remark following up chatting about church life – what is wrong with this image? A Christian businessperson persuades someone to buy something they know they can’t afford – what is wrong with this image? Christian children call Muslim children names – what is wrong with this image? I could go on

We have been called to live distinctive authentic lives and not blur the lines, but showing compassion to those not there yet.

Sermon Twenty Five On judgement

john                                                    audio clip

I am so glad that it was one of Wesley’s drier sermons that I read this morning. I can only imagine the puddle I would have become if it was one of his discourses on all-in-all Christians. I am in a state of being overwhelmed, I am hoping it will pass or I will have to put off something I am supposed to do on Sunday to another time, maybe never.

So when collywobbles attack a good dose of 18th Century dry writing is needed. I definitely think that this sermon was written at a time when Wesley was being criticised from all sides. It reads more like a defence than teaching. In other sermons he has explained why the use of certain things would have been important to the Jews but here there is no mention of the importance of “dogs” or “pigs.” He suggests that this part of the sermon is directed at non-Christians chiefly which I do not concur with.

Why?

Non-Christians believe us to be the most judgemental people, and we as church body have to accept this criticism. In Wesley’s time and in ours people on the outside looking in say things like “That’s not very Christian, or, that’s not how a Christian should behave” and yet in our churches we judge. One woman puts on her very best clothes and looks so stylish and yet is very poor causing another to cast aspersions on her poverty. Because churches have all kinds of people in them, seekers, almost and all-in-all there is judgement.

Instead of getting our lives in order and taking the log out of our eye, we look around and think “Well I am doing okay compared to…”

Shame on us, we primarily should be focused on our individual walk with the Lord not getting distracted by this one or that. Our hearts must remain soft, beating to the God’s rhythm and we cannot do that by looking left and right at our sisters and brothers. Now even if we ourselves do not judge we have to take corporate responsibility for all our church family. We should be showing people how not to judge without indulging people.

The reason I don’t judge is because I have seen the face of human judgement against me and it was not pretty. It was horrific. It is the reason I find it so hard to share my testimony locally. Maybe that is why the collywobbles have started, because I must give an account of it next week – only two minutes followed by three on something else. What to leave out, what to keep in? Will I just walk away so they don’t have the opportunity to judge me.

To keep from judging we must cherish the gospel, the gospel message is the “pearl” in the parable. Do not waste time arguing with atheist debaters as they will twist your words against you. Instead show them Christianity by the way you live your life. Pray for them, and pray for yourself.

Love those people because you love God and he loves you and them. Be compassionate with them, they don’t know yet the glorious saving grace of the Lord. Be kind, they think of justice in terms of a weighing scales, not understanding God’s mercy on which we cast ourselves.

Believe me there will be buckets of prayer in this house, this day.

Sermon Twenty One On prayer

john                                          audio clip

This part of the Sermon on the Mount can be tricky for people. People do love to give but they want everyone to know about their giving – the ostentatious €50 note on a collection plate, the biggest box at a birthday party. It is part of the rush of giving – the kudos you receive.

Well Jesus didn’t see it like that. He calls us to give, and give generously but to do so quietly, without fuss and fanfare. Back in his day the rich folk would have someone blow a trumpet, according to John Wesley, in order to announce their giving to the poor.

Nowadays we have celebrities being photographed giving to the needy, the photogenic needy. You don’t see them kicking a football on the field in Knocknaheeny but you will see them gently rolling a ball to an angelic child in Cope. The giving of alms on Maundy Thursday buys into this “being seen.” Every year a bin liner of stuff goes from Kerry to Cork, it is full of knitted garments for people without homes, there are various people who put stuff in the bag and it arrives at the Simon Community. They always ask where it came from and I merely say Kerry. I don’t go into any more detail. When one of the people who had contributed heard, they were not pleased, they wanted it to be known where it came from specifically. But that is not Jesus’ way.

Kindness is catching, there is wave of passing it on going through our nation. People want codecils on their giving though. I give you this if you give me that. Personally I love to give, none of it tax deductible, just plain old giving. And I do like to do it secret. And I do like to give to my utmost and I do like to do random acts of kindness. There are people who do all this but give only to people they know, or people they think aren’t looking for an angle or whatever reason, they add codecils. It is not about being Lord and Lady Bountiful, it is giving something from God via us to another human.

The same principle Jesus applies to praying. Pray in a press, don’t be like the Pharisee with the loud prayers. God is interested in relationship, with communication not with how doctrinally sound or theologically correct our prayers are. He doesn’t need our prayers to be full of passages from the bible. He wants us to be honest and sincere, he wants our very hearts.

Prayer is one of those things that as a new Christian you think everyone has been to prayer school, they have words you’ve never heard of before, they talk of sanctification and justification or intercession and extempore. Words that trip off their tongues and tie yours in knots. As a Christian you have yourself as a living proof of his transforming power. So a prayer might begin Dear Lord…and go on to say … thank You ..and end..Amen. When we say thank you to God it encompasses everything we are thankful for in our hearts, it is a prayer of thanksgiving in five words. Like wise – I’m sorry is a prayer of confession. Yes God wants to hear more but he can hear our hearts so if we are saying sorry from the heart he knows. And in time we get our voices so we can pray to God.

I met a woman a few days ago from my neck of the woods and we talked in our dialect for a while and then we prayed and her voice changed into a different pitch but also a different voice. I am left wondering should I change my voice when speaking to God, if I change my voice am I changing something of my story too, do I change my voice when I pray to God. Just questions, no answers yet.

Wesley then comes to the Lord’s Prayer and expounds each phrase in great detail and I have nothing to add, he put it so well. In response to his writing, I see how perfect that prayer is, it covers everything we need in a prayer, we should say it more often, we should mean it more often, we should live it – always!