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

salt-and-light

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.

Sermon 19 ~~~{The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God}

 “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.”

1 John 3:9

Light bulb! Light bulb!
It started with a shower of rain and ended up quite something else. The niggle was “how dare it rain on MY holiday.” that was the beginning of a slide. Did the Spirit try to hold me, convict me. Yes of course, but I was bent on ignoring the righteousness of God, and Wesley in this sermon explains how it is that backsliding occurs.
We allow a little bit of this or that and allow a whole deluge to come in. It takes time to realise the error of our ways, we might need the intervention of a Nathan or Paul but if we are to continue to live in Christ we must get back on track.
Love this sermon, there is nothing in it to pick apart,  the illustrations are relevant to today’s world and I recommend this sermon to be red by every believer, it is very encouraging and yet challenging.
I feel a sermon coming on …