Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sermon On The Mount... Index

Over this year I have preached a series of messages on Jesus Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel (Chapter 5-7)... This post is really an index of titles, passages and links... to make thing easy if you want to access this material.

I have found this process incredibly challenging and invigorating. In a facebook conversation with a friend of mine commenting on a poster I had put on line adverting my next Sermon Series (on the Olivet Discourse) I commented ' I hope my preaching lives up to the advertising' my main hope is that in the midst of this exploring and wrestling with the Sermon on the Mount  that people may encounter its author... Jesus in ways that would inspire and encourage them to 'follow him...by hearing his words and acting on them.

All the way through these series (I cut the Sermon on the Mount up to make it more accessible to my congregation) I have been motivated and challenged by a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer...

“The restoration of the church will surely come from a new kind of community, which will have nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising adherence to the Sermon on the Mount in imitation of Christ. I believe the time has come to rally people together for this.”

Starting point

Jesus said come follow me: reflection on Matthew 4:17-25 . This is the message I preached when I was preaching for a call to St Peter's Presbyterian church Mt Wellington and it seemed logical and important to follow that on by looking at Jesus teaching on what it actually meant to be a follower.

Jesus Guide to Happiness... The Beattitudes

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit Matthew 5:1-3
Blessed are those who Mourn Matthew 5:4
Blessed are the Meek  Matthew 5:5
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness Matthew 5:6
Blessed are the merciful Matthew 5:7
Blessed are the peacemakers Matthew 5:8 (note that the numbering in the series is out here this is due to the fact that I preached this sermon on ANZAC day here in New Zealand).
Blessed are the pure in heart Matthew 5:9
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake Matthew 5:10-12

Salt and Light  Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus, the law and us  Matthew 5:17-20
Build bridges don't dig graves Matthew 5:21-26
Having an unadulterated Passion in a sex saturated society Matthew 5:27-30
Valuing marriage in a throw away society Matthew 5:30- 32
Having our Heart in our mouth:Courageous integrity in a world of hype and insincerity Matthew 5:33-37
Going the extra mile in a don't get mad get even world Matthew 5:37-42
Love your enemies in a friend/unfriend world Matthew 5:43-48

A journey beyond the mask to the heart of devotion Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18
A journey to the Father heart of God Matthew 6:9
A journey to change and transformation Matthew 6:9-15
A Journey of trust: Give us our daily bread  Matthew 6:9-15
A journey of Trust; Trusting God with our failings and future Matthew 6:9-15

Jesus Economic... It's for the Birds   Matthew 6:19-34

Eyeing up how to deal with each others faults and failings  Matthew 7:1-6
 I was in hospital having stents put in my the arteries round my heart and I was blessed to have Rev Margaret Liow  stand in and preach on Matthew 7:7-12... Knock, ask Seek and the golden Rule. So alas there is no message on that passage as part of this series.
 A Matrix Moment: The Narrow way and rebooting for kingdom living Matthew 7: 13-23
How solid is the ground on which we build? : hearing and doing Jesus words  Matthew 7:24-28.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Matrix Moment... The Narrow Way and Rebooting For Kingdom of God Living (Matthew 7:13-23)

There is a poignant moment in the 1999 movie ‘the matrix’ where the protagonist Neo meets the shadowy figure of Morpheus and is invited to choose:To choose between two realities… It is one of the most loved scenes in modern film history. It’s become almost a clique, used by countless preachers… but I could not think about Jesus ending his Manifesto of the Kingdom of God with four challenges to make a decision without thinking of that scene. Let’s have a look…

  ‘come and follow me’… sound familiar. It where we stepped into the Jesus story in Matthew’s gospel. He had called his disciples to come and follow him and then  we’ve spent most of the year working through Jesus outlining  for his disciples of what it meant to follow him, in all areas of life in the sermon on the mount.

It started with the beatitudes this amazing revolution of grace. That to come into the Kingdom of heaven people needed to know their spiritual poverty, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, It wasn’t the spiritual elite but those who knew their need for something more.

Then Jesus had gone on to talk of what it meant to respond to that gracious offer that those who follow Jesus are celled to be the salt ofthe earth and light of the world. That it wasn’t about keeping a set of rules but about heart attitude… to live a transformed life… that reflected the very one whose grace they had been offered… to show that grace and love in all we say and do… even to love our enemies.

Jesus moved on to say that to live in response to this revolution of grace was to change our understanding of our devotional life. That instead of the external performanceto gain God’s favour or to show we were god’s favourite, it was anintimate  relationship with God,  Knowing God as Father and living in humble trust: to put the your first. Hallowed be your name,your kingdom come,  your will be done and to trust God for the ‘ours’ our daily bread our sins forgiven our future inGod’s hands.

Finally Jesus had gone on to talk about how that devotional life and that revolution of grace would impact on the bottom line, on ourfinances, that our priority was to be putting first the kingdom of God and hisrighteousness and not just saying it but living it out… trusting God to providefor our needs. That to live that prayer out meant we did not judge people, we didn’t write them off but rather extended them the grace we had been extended, looking to deal with the fault foibles and failings in our own life and only as we did seeking reconciliation and healing for others. That as we can rely on God to treat us with mercy and compassion so we should treat others in that same way.

Now Jesus turns to his disciples and brings it all together in a matrix moment. It’s been a great journey but you’ve got to choose. There are two ways two gates says Jesus the narrow gate and the wide gate. You choose. I shared a devotion with the parish council on Wednesday Night which summed up that moment like this ‘the main character in the movie has to decide whether to pledge allegiance to the world that was familiar and safe-a digitally simulated dream world called the matrix-or a scary, non-illusionary real world that could only be met with courage and saving love.” It’s the same choice Jesus gives us. The fact that GATE AND Way seem to follow on from each other in mean it’s just not an event, a moment in time but of trajectory through life.

When I was searching for a picture for the service today of the narrow way I found many pictures and images of lovely lonely mountain paths, contrast with paved highways. But Jesus first hearers would have known that Jesus was talking about city gates. That there was a crowded main thoroughfare, filled with the hustle and bustle of commerce and trade, maybe even the great pilgrims ways in Jerusalem with the crowd flocking to religious festivals, as opposed to the small gateways for travellers on foot, the poor and lest important might take.

If you’ve ever been in a big crowd like at a rugby test match at Eden Park or the U2 concert at Mt Smart stadium it’s very easy to get swept along by the crowd. The last big match we went to as a family we travelled by train.  Kris and I got separated and I had Bethany with me and we got herded with the bulk of the crowd into a tunnel under the railway track. There was even a man with a bull horn telling us to go that way. But Kris and Naomi and Isaac went against the crowd and over the rail bridge. They got the first train out of the station we had to wait for a couple of trains after that. They went the way lest travelled. Jesus is not adverse to say in that the wide road of simply going your own way, taking the blue pill and waking up and choosing what you want to believe is the road to destruction.

We may wonder what the narrow way and the narrow gate means. Does it mean that we have to be narrow minded sheltered and cut off from the world? Does it mean adherence to one set of fundamentals or one way of doing things? I don’t think it does, remember Jesus is always contradicting his Kingdom from the scribes and Pharisees who thought that way. Although when I read Jesus teaching I can’t help but think that we the church often find ourselves shuffling our feet and wondering why it sounds like we are standing with the Pharisees when Jesus speaks.   the key here is that it is the narrow way because it focuses on one person and one person only… Jesus in John 10:9 in one for those amazing I am statements that are such a rich motif in John’s Gospel Jesus says I am the gate anyone who enters through me will be saved.  The gate is Jesus and the matrix moment is choosing in all we do to follow Jesus who offers us new and abundant life as we follow him. The way as we see all through this last section of Jesus Sermon on the Mount is putting Jesus words into action in our lives. It’s not salvation by works, but letting that relationship with Jesus permeate the whole of our life.

To choose the narrow way is a very active thing. It means choosing to walk a different path and live a different way. I was challenged this week by re reading an article by Tom Sine. I found it so challenging that it forms the basis of my From the Minister in this month’s church newsletter, so you’ve got a chance to chew it over.  It has to do with roads. It has to do with the relatively new environment we live called suburbia. Where we live and where we work and where we shop can be so separated and is only made possible by cars and cheap (ha ha) petrol. Sine quotes architectural historian N J Northumbria  who says ‘Suburbs far from being values-free, embody the values of individualism, privacy, conformity and exclusion.” Then sine goes on to comment…

“While I know any number of faithful Christians living in the suburbs who maintain vital faith, moral integrity and regular church attendance, I find very few who succeed in embodying values that are significantly different from the cultural values of the suburban communities in which they live…

many of our churches have become little more than chaplains to the dominant culture”

Neil Cole puts it another way he says we are good at doing church, putting on this performance on a Sunday but how good are we at making disciples… people who follow Jesus. To  go against the flow and follow the narrow way.  I’m only sharing this today because I sense the challenge of Jesus words in my own life.

Jesus goes on to look then at two other challenges we face in choosing the narrow way. The first is the reality that there are false prophets, false teachers will try and lead us away from the narrow way. We need to realise that Matthews gospel was written in a certain context to address certain issues happening in the church community that Matthew was part of and one of those issues may have been false teachers who were pointing people to a different way. That’s helpful for us because I think we always confront those kinds of things and choices in our lives. You know there are lots of people who point the way to life, inside and outside the church that we need to be aware of that while they may sound great do not point us to the narrow gate. Jesus tells us that we will know them by their fruit. By their actions, that the heart of a tree is revealed in its fruit. Don’t get confused says Jesus by flashy presentations and great speeches look beyond and see what it at the heart. Of course Jesus here is the ultimate example, we see his love and compassion for the sick and the poor, his willingness to give up his life.

Likewise says Jesus, when you make your choice don’t go for the acts of power and miracles. Don’t get caught up by the razzle dazzle. There are people says Jesus who will do those things but in reality they do not know Jesus. People were drawn to Jesus because of the miracles he performed, but when he started talking about the fact that the son of man would suffer and die that the narrow way was the way of self-sacrificing love it tells us in John’s gospel that many people deserted him. I’ve watched some people with real powerful ministries simply self-explode and focus on themselves and It ends up a mess. I don’t judge them and I look at my own life and ask the question am I following Jesus am I on the Narrow way.

In the end and we are going to look at that more fully next week, says Jesus, the foundation for life is not simply hearing what Jesus says but its knowing God’s grace in Christ, and putting into effect in our lives. Simply hearing and obeying.

All the way through this long series we’ve had the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer …

“The restoration of the church will surely come from a new kind of community, which will have nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising adherence to the Sermon on the Mount in imitation of Christ. I believe the time has come to rally people together for this.”

… And I believe we are at a juncture in our churches life. We are going to have to make some hard decisions some hard choices. As a parish council we are looking at events and thing we want to run next year. But that is not at the core of what we need. It’s the challenge of choosing together to follow Jesus.  You see in the clip we saw in the matrix , Morpheus said the matrix was even there when you went to church.  I love and I hate the challenging words of author Garrison Keillor but I’m going to finish with them… the call is ‘to give up our Good Christian life and follow Jesus.’

I don’t know if Jesus challenge at the end of the Sermon on the Mount was what the builders of St Peter's  had in mind when you put in these doors to the church lounge. But I’ve often thought of this passage I’ve gone through those doors both using the narrow door and the wide door. Maybe it’s designed to challenge us about that choice in our lives every time we go through there… and if it was just pure pragmatism.. Guess what it will now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm not a vodka martini... I don't want to be Shaken not Stirred...(thoughts on a chapter from 'The Organic Church'

I am reading a chapter a day of  Neil Cole's book Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens'(Joessey Bass 2005)... part of their Leadership Network Series. It's an inspirational and challenging book. I find myself agreeing with so much of Cole's critique of what he calls the conventional Church. I find myself reacting to it as well from the perspective of having so much invested in that conventional church model. But I also want to cry amen as I read the stories of hope and redemption that he writes about.

In the chapter 'Awakening a new kind of church' Cole speaks of starting Awakening chapels a Church multiplying network in Long Beach. His philosophy is...
"WE want to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple."

The focus changes from growing a church to growing disciples who will in turn be a great church planting church.

Cole challenges me when he says

" The conventional church has become so complicated and difficult to pull off that only a rare person who is professional can do it every week... when Church is so complicated, its function is taken out of the hands of the common Christian and placed in the hands of a few talented professionals. This results in a passive church whose members come and act more like spectators than empowered agents of God's Kingdom.
The organic or simple church, more than any other, is best prepared to saturate a region because it is informal, relational, and mobile. Because it is not financially encumbered with overhead costs and is easily planted in a variety of settings, it also reproduces faster and spreads further. Organic church can be a decentralised approach to a region, nation, or people group and is not heavily dependant upon trained clergy." (I'm reading a Kindle version so page no.s don't really mean much)
So much of the time and resources in a Conventional church go into keeping it and its structures, both buildings and organisations that it stops the church from actually focusing on its core calling... to make disciples. The church can seem about serving its structure and servicing its services. Pastoral care can become palliative care and chaplaincy rather than..pastoral care... shepherding and leading.
AS I said I have so much invested in the conventional church... One of my big learnings about myself as I head to my 50th birthday is that I have become institutionalised and so used to the conventions of the church that I have lost sight of the big picture. I'm good at preforming... but deep down I know that what makes my heart sing is the people down through my time in ministry who I've invested time into who have become followers of Christ and gone on and been involved in leadership and mission. 
At present the denomination I am in here in New Zealand is in the process of a big shake up. With the earthquake in Christchurch we are having a shakeup about buildings. With the economic recession there is a big shake up financially and with declining numbers there is a real shake up that what we are doing just isn't working. Hopefully we are in the process of being shaken awake and willing to look at the possibilities that Cole suggests... Maybe we've been made captive to a Christendom mindset that we are at the center of it all but now we are being shaken and have to think that maybe we are about to have to go underground. Either to death, buried under the rubble of our over complex structures or underground, as in subversive, counterculture a  network not an institution, organic not organisational. 
I'm not a vodka martini... I don't want to be shaken and not stirred.
This sounds over dramatic I know but at the moment I think I need to wake up from my slumber. These are just thoughts... swirling... disturbing and hopefully somehow opening me up to hear what the spirit has to say. Watch this space. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

C is For Contemporary Worship...

I was searching through a book called ' A is for Abductive: The Languge of the Emerging Church' by Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer and came upon an entry C is for Contemporary Worship. which I thought was worth passing on... so here are some quotes.

"Contemporary worship is... another name for 1970's worship ie worship that is 30 years  behind the times instead of 150 to 300 years..." (me here) I have always maintained that which church you attend has often more to do with which time warp you are willing to step through than most other things.

"even restricting ourselves to the musical dimension of worship, we are missing the point."

" In the emerging culture we would be better to drop the term 'contemporary' and move this entry to 'F' for fresh Worship or "I" for Intentional worship. Fresh and intentional worship beyond modernity can easily draw on the most ancient of resources. In fact we expect that it will increasingly do so. The real attraction of contemporary worship wasn't it trendiness, it was its freshness-different, new- and its powerfulness and purposefulness. "

"Being in contemporary style does not stop them from becoming stake contemporary songs."

and a plea that I can amen to... "Give us songs that are meaningful (which requires that they be understandable), and we will sing with Joy. Give us songs that are fresh, and we sing with sustained enthusiasm"

...and can I add give us some songs with depth and meaning and we will sing our souls and our hearts out to God.

yes there are classics that have stood the test of time and new songs that will do so but as this entry in a primer for new words from the emerging church says... there are few that actually make it into that category.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Meeting in progress... but is there any progress at all.

E. R. Hendrickson’s Law: “If you have enough meetings over a long enough period of time, the meetings become more important than the problem the meetings were intended to solve.”
--as quoted in Thomas L. Martin, Jr., Malice in Blunderland (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), 82.

Wow, Leonard Sweet put this quote on his facebook today and I have to admit I found it quite challenging. Having been involved in Church and denominational stuff recently I can see how this happens. In fact the whole of our processes and procedures can take precedence over mission and meaning and in actual fact actually getting round to doing anything. So we use a lot of energy and effort and put on a good show... but do we actually get anywhere?

I recently watched the movie Moneyball and there is one scene in which Billy Beane the GM of the Oakland "A's" baseball team goes into a meeting of all his scouts and advisers as they try to work out how to put together a winning team and as he says "We are not asking the right questions" is told that in the room are years and years of experience in baseball... They know what they are doing... but if it was left to them nothing really would change.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Blessing From 1 John 4:7-12

Over the last six months as I have moved back into a settled Parish ministry and a more formal worship setting I have found myself looking at different passages of scripture to use as Blessings at the end of the services.

As God's people I believe that a congregation does not need someone up the front simply praying a blessing on them but as God's Spirited people, a priesthood of all believers and as fellow ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we should pray a blessing on each other. For the services in October we've been using a blessing based on 1 John 4:7-12.

Dear friends

Go from here knowing you are loved

 God first loved us

God’s Son has redeemed us

God’s Spirit is within us

And let us go

Showing that love

That the world may know God’s love

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eyeing Up How We Deal With Each Others Faults and Failings in Matthew 7:1-6

A few years ago I had an operation on my eyes. Blood vessels had burst and the only way to restore my eyesight was to insert a needle and suck the jelly in front of the retina out. My left eye was done with a local anaesthetic so I was awake and could hear what was going on and see what was going on as well. “we’re just going to stick this needle in your eye Mr Carter we need you to stay very, very still.’  Just as the surgeon settled over his microscope like apparatus to begin the delicate work on my eyes he stopped… ‘has someone other been using these scopes?’ the answer was, ‘yes they had’, so before he was able to continue dealing with my eye problem he had to adjust the instrument he was using to compensate for his own eye issues. The operation then continued without a hitch. Can I say I really appreciated his self-awareness and willingness to deal with his own shortcomings before he started to deal with mine!

  You have a problem dear friends… I am not perfect. In fact a friend of Kris and mine once said, Howard you are going to make a great minister… because you have so many faults there is hope for the rest of us. In fact I’m so imperfect and flawed that I cannot see all of my faults, flaws, failings and foibles. I am aware of a lot of them but not all of them. How are you going to deal with that?

Dear friends I have a problem… you are all wonderful people, but I know that you are not perfect as well. you have faults, flaws, failings and foibles some of which you may not be aware of… How I am I going to deal with that?

 Jesus ties these two things together, dealing with eye problems and the imperfections we see in each other as he continues to show us a new way of living as the people of God in Matthew 7. As he gives us a new operating system a new way of living and relating. You see with Jesus revolution of grace, wonderfully and poetically laid out in the beatitudes, we are welcomed in Christ, with all with our brokenness and imperfections, to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus calls us to be salt and light, to have a righteousness that is not external but comes from a heart transformation. But Jesus is not idealistic and naïve to think that we as a new people of God will not have to deal with the imperfections we see in each other or in the people around us. So he warns us about the two extremes that we can fall into for dealing with those differences. Too dangerous defaults…Judgementalism; passing sentence on others because of their faults and failings or even their differences from us,   and being undiscerning; not acknowledging that there are faults and failings and yes even differences, that need to be addressed. And says DA Carson you can tell which of the two is the most dangerous to our loving each other and kingdom of heaven living by the fact that Jesus spends five verses addressing Judgmentalism and one dealing with being undiscerning.

 Jesus uses the rabbinical style of teaching here he states his instruction ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged’ then gives the theological justification for that instruction ‘For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ Then gives two illustrations of the instruction… the parable of the speck and the plank in verses 3,5 deals with judgementalism and the parable of the pigs, dogs and pearls in verse 6, which deals with being undiscerning.

 ‘Do not judge or you will be judged’… it’s probably best to quickly say what Jesus doesn’t mean here so we can fully comprehend what he does mean. Historically some have seen this as a prohibition of Christians being involved in the judiciary. In what you could say was a very relevant debate over the relationship between church and state, but in the illustration Jesus uses of the speck and the plank it seems to have a more everyday life, relationship between disciples connotation. Likewise others have seen that this means that Christians are not to make any moral judgement what so ever, that we simply cannot or should not decide between what is right or wrong. Again that does not fit the context, as we work our way through Matthew 7… we are warned to be discerning in not to cast our pearls before swine…we will see Jesus warning us against false prophets, that we will be able to judge them by their fruit. To judge here is rather to pass sentence upon, to write off. One of the ways we can make ourselves feel better or superior and more righteous than others is falling into the trap of looking down at another person for their imperfections:

Another parable that springs to mind is Jesus teaching in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector who went up to the temple to pray in Luke 18:9-14, where instead of being aware of his own sins and short fallings the Pharisee simply thanks God that he is not like the tax collector.  His self-righteousness is a mask held on by the glue of comparison, he is blind to its own failing. Jesus stinging conclusion to that story is that the tax collector not the Pharisee went home justified, because he knew his spiritual poverty and his need for God, his vision was clear. 

 Then Jesus moves on to give us the rational why we should not judge. It’s very simply if we judge others we will be judged, the measure we use of others will be used of us. In the end we are playing God by writing someone off and as Jesus points out all of us are not fit for the job, our vision our seeing of others is not clear enough. As it says in 1 Samuel 16:7 Man looks on the outside sees the exterior, God sees the heart, the motives the context clearly. Mark Woodley uses the illustration of dealing with   a screaming baby night after night. He says he has felt the frustration building and building within him, his fists clench, even with a supportive partner, financial security, a caring family background and caring church gathered round, while he does not condone neglect or violence to children, he cannot say what he would do if he was alone, or caught in an abusive relationship, struggling under the pressure of overdue rent and inadequate benefits and no one to turn to. If we condemn and write off that person as beyond God’s grace and our compassion it’s not on. There is no room for hope.

Thanks to mysmartsignstore.com for giving permission for this image to be used. check out there store for all saftey sign needs.

 To be treated in the same measure as we treat others, can be taken two ways. Both of which are true and destructive.  Judgementalism or a critical spirit that is always seeking out the faults of others is contagious, it is catchy it spreads like an infection within a body and can be fatal to communities, marriages and churches. On the other hand gracious acceptance and working at overcoming issues together can be healing. Secondly a heart that does not see its own faults and writes others off is not open and receptive to the forgiveness and grace of God. If we do not forgive other are we open to the forgiveness of God. We find ourselves playing God and writing others off and we place ourselves in that very place before God.

Jesus then gives us an illustration of what is wrong and also a way forward in treating each other’s imperfections and faults. He does it in a warm and humorous way, almost with Monty Python-esque ridicule but also just in case we miss it with some real sting. That word we all hate hypocrite.

 He says judging others is like this, having a smudge on your glasses and walking past an optometrists who suddenly grabs you glasses off your face and proceeds to ridicule you about taking more care of your glasses and vigorously wipes them down and when he looks up you realise that his glasses are covered in paint splatters and tomato sauce, engine grease and mustard and if you look real hard you can just grab a glimpse of his eyeball through a thin gap of clear glass of the left lens. Or you are walking past a building site and some sawdust gets caught in your eye and someone comes rushing up to help you and as you turn to see them they have a table leg sticking out of each eye. Well says Jesus before you remove the speck from your brother or sisters eye deal with what in your own eye first then you can deal with theirs. In fact says Jesus we’ve got the mustard and engine grease we’ve got the table leg.

 The key says Jesus of not judging and dealing with each other’s imperfections is not to put on a mask that we are OK and all right. Not to be a hypocrite, Rather  we need to start with self-examination and self-knowledge, to be willing to open ourselves up to the process that Psalm 139 poetically concludes with “search me O God and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’. It’s only as we do that that our vision is clear enough to even spot the speck in someone else’s eyes let alone to be able to deal with it.

Secondly Any observation of a speck in someone’s eye is not to condemn them for it, but rather to assist them to get back to clear vision. We should be motivated by care and love for the other person. In Galatians 6:1 Paul exhorts his readers  by applying Jesus teaching in a more straightforward manner ‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.’ There’s the possible log.

 Johari’s window is a tool to help us understand that process. It is a diagram that shows how much of who we are is known to ourselves and to others and shows that the more we are able to open ourselves up to our self-knowledge and being known by others with all our faults and flaws and foibles and failings as well as our strengths and good points and sucesses that our ability to communicate and work with each other develops and grows. There are faults in my life than are hidden from me, I can’t see them, it’s like the log in the eye, they cause me to treat others and communicate in a non-Christ like way. There are areas you see that I don’t I need you to help me to remove those specks, God give me the grace to let you help me remove it. There are areas I know about but I have hidden from you, and they are not going to be able to be sorted till I can get them out in the open. I can only do that as I see you deal with those areas of your life and as I see and feel the grace and love from you to feel safe to bring them out into the open. So we can sort em together.

If you want have a better look at this tool it can be found on line http://www.businessballs.com/johariwindowmodel.htm (I’ll put that on the church website).

Jesus finishes his teaching on do not judge with a warning about uncritical thinking and acceptance… the other dangerous reaction to the faults and failings we all have.  It’s full of some rather strong language. We may not be used to Jesus calling people pigs and dogs, but he does. He says if we are uncritical we run the danger of casting our pearl before swine and dogs. Now when Jesus says dog’s it’s from a first century Jewish perspective, these are not domesticated lapdogs and pets they are the wild mongrels that roam the streets looking for food, and pigs were both unclean animals and semi wild. We can find ourselves in the position of sharing our gospel treasure with people who just are not willing to hear or respond, we are called to love our enemies, and not to write people off but there are times and situations as we live out the gospel or share the gospel that it will be mistreated and not be received by others. We need to be aware of that and tread carefully in those situations. Some peoples Johari windows are definitely nailed shut.

Let me finish with a poem by Carol Wimmer that was posted by a friend on facebook. I think it sums up the some of the posture and stance that Jesus invites us to take here. It’s entitled When I Say ‘I am a Christian’

When I say I am a Christian’

I am not shouting that “I am clean living”

I am whispering “I was lost, but now I am found and forgiven”

When I say I and a Christian

I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide’

When I say I am a Christian

I’m not trying to be strong

I’m professing that I am weak and need his strength to carry on.

When I say I am a Christian

I’m not bragging of success

I’m admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

When I say I’m a Christian.

I’m not claiming that I’m perfect

My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am Worth it.

When I say I am a Christian

I still feel the sting of pain.

I have my share of heart aches

So I call upon his name.

When I say I am a Christian

I am not holier than thou.

I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

OK so maybe this is a glass half empty kind of moment

I found my emotional response to attending the General Assembly of the PCANZ last week in Rotorua summed up in two prayers from the Old Testament, that were prat of my daily readings today. I simply share them.

 One a pastoral Prayer from Jeremiah in Jeremiah 14:19-21

19 Lord, have you completely rejected Judah?
Do you really hate Jerusalem?
Why have you wounded us past all hope of healing?
We hoped for peace, but no peace came.
We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror.
20 Lord, we confess our wickedness
and that of our ancestors, too.
We all have sinned against you.
21 For the sake of your reputation, Lord, do not abandon us.
Do not disgrace your own glorious throne.
Please remember us,
and do not break your covenant with us.

22 Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain?
Does it fall from the sky by itself?
No, you are the one, O Lord our God!
Only you can do such things.
So we will wait for you to help us.
and the other Psalm 80...

Psalm 80

For the choir director: A psalm of Asaph, to be sung to the tune “Lilies of the Covenant.”

1 Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock.
O God, enthroned above the cherubim,
display your radiant glory
2 to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.
Show us your mighty power.
Come to rescue us!

3 Turn us again to yourself, O God.
Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.
4 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
how long will you be angry with our prayers?
5 You have fed us with sorrow
and made us drink tears by the bucketful.
6 You have made us the scorn of neighboring nations.
Our enemies treat us as a joke.

7 Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies.
Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.
8 You brought us from Egypt like a grapevine;
you drove away the pagan nations and transplanted us into your land.
9 You cleared the ground for us,
and we took root and filled the land.
10 Our shade covered the mountains;
our branches covered the mighty cedars.
11 We spread our branches west to the Mediterranean Sea;
our shoots spread east to the Euphrates River.[b]
12 But now, why have you broken down our walls
so that all who pass by may steal our fruit?
13 The wild boar from the forest devours it,
and the wild animals feed on it.

14 Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies.
Look down from heaven and see our plight.
Take care of this grapevine
15 that you yourself have planted,
this son you have raised for yourself.
16 For we are chopped up and burned by our enemies.
May they perish at the sight of your frown.
17 Strengthen the man you love,
the son of your choice.
18 Then we will never abandon you again.
Revive us so we can call on your name once more.

19 Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.
Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Matthew 7: rebooting for Kingdom of Heaven Living'

For most of this year in the services at St Peter's Presbyterian Church I have been working my way through Jesus Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's gospel. I've tried to do it in bite size sections. we looked at the Beatitudes in 'the Jesus guide to Happiness' then looked at the rest of Matthew Chapter 5 in  a series I called "It's Life But Not As we Know it", then a five week series called "Journey to the heart of Prayer looking at the Lord's Prayer. Last week I preached on the economics of the Kingdom of God.. and now we are finishing off this exploration of the Sermon on the Mount with a Series called 'Matthew 7: Rebooting for Kingdom of Heaven Living'.

Just recently the people who work at the Northern Presbytery office here at St Peter's upgraded their computers and it was interesting watching them adjusting to a new environment as it meant they upgraded to a windows 7 operating system. While it seemed familiar in reality it was vastly different to the way they had become used to operating. It may seem a bit crazy but that kind of experience is behind me calling this final series 'Matthew 7: rebooting for Kingdom of heaven Living' as in the sermon on the mount Jesus gives us a new operating paradigm, a new way to live. In someways we have become familiar with what Jesus said but we are still trying to get used to working and living in that new Kingdom of Heaven environment.

You may ask why focus so much time on the Sermon on the Mount at this juncture of my churches life. In the back of my mind is a quote that I kept coming across in a 'do you think that God is trying to say something' kind of way from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 “The restoration of the church will surely come from a new kind of community, which will have nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising adherence to the Sermon on the Mount in imitation of Christ. I believe the time has come to rally people together for this.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Jesus economics... It's for the Birds? Matthew 6:19-34

I’m not sure you’d get a good hearing these days if you told people to consider birds and wild flowers as financial indicators. But when Jesus talks about economics in the Kingdom of heaven that is exactly what he does. He tells his disciples to consider the birds and the lilies of the field and that they will teach us about where to find financial security. The kind of security we need to put God’s kingdom first in our lives. It’s something that we desperately need to hear a fresh today.

 “The restoration of the church” says Deitrich Bonhoeffer ,“ will surely come from a new kind of community, which will have nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising adherence to the Sermon on the Mount in imitation of Christ. I believe the time has come to rally people together for this.”

Nowhere is that more relevant for the church and Christians in western culture than Jesus teaching on economic priorities in the second half of Matthew chapter 6.. Martin Luther sums up very well the challenge that we face, he said that where ever the gospel is preached two plagues arise against it, false teaching, that assaults right thinking and sir greed that assails right living.

There is a new urgency also to re-examine Jesus teaching on economics as we face the ever growing reality of the global village we live in. “The world’s population is mushrooming’ says John Stott,” and the economic problems of the nation’s become more complex, the rich are still getting richer, the poor poorer,’ a situation that God’s spirit will no longer allow us to turn a blind eye to.”  These problems are not just across the world anymore, they are part of our city and our neighbourhoods here and now. There is also the realisation that how we live is no longer sustainable ecologically.

At an even more basic level Jesus calls his followers to live differently than the world around them. When it came to spirituality it was to be different than the Pharisees that spiritual disciplines were about intimate trust not public performance. When it came to finances Jesus contrasts his way  to that of the gentiles whose focus was on their material goods and needs. When it comes to economics we live with that prevailing gentile worldview today. Our identity is primarily that of a consumer, we live in a consumer society… we are tutored says Rodney Clapp that people basically consist of unmet needs that can be appeased by commodified goods and experiences.’ That the consumer should think first and foremost about meeting their own needs. 

Jesus uses the metaphor of treasure, vision and slavery to call us to choose a different way to live.

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It needs noting Jesus is not challenging us about providing for ourselves and family, he teaches us to pray ‘give us today our daily bread’. The scriptures affirm good stewardship and hard work. Nor is he denying that the world is full of good things to enjoy. But the question is where are the important things for us, what is our priority, what are investing our resources, time and energy into. What are we accumulating?

When it comes to accumulating treasure, why says Jesus would you spend all your time and money on things that will rust and rot and get stolen? We’ve been burgled four times in the four years we’ve lived where are now. I can attest to the fact that stuff gets taken.

Rather says Jesus invest in heavenly things. Things of eternal value, that can’t get taken away, that won’t rot that won’t rust or tarnish. There of course has been some debate on what Jesus means here.  What are treasures in heaven?

 Firstly heaven is where God lives and reigns now. It is not the idea of putting aside stuff for our ultimate retirement to glory, or so we can buy a better room in Our fathers house.

Secondly, It is not the idea of the church in the middle ages that there was an economy of merit, that the good things we did earned us brownie points for God that we could earn our salvation, or at least buy ourselves and our loved ones relief from purgatory. Jesus has already shown us that the Kingdom of God is a grace economy. Our suffering our merit doesn’t buy us in.

The clues to what this means comes from the Lord’s prayer, where we are invited to pray first and foremost, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That we invest in those things, we work on developing a godly character, we invest in relationships, we deal with the blot on the name of God that poverty and injustice is in this world, we get alongside the poor hungry and thirsty physically and spiritually and let them know and experience the good news of God’s grace. That we simplify our lives and lifestyle, to care for our neighbour. We realise we have what we have to share it with those in need.

Jesus then talks about our vision.  I remember hitching back from a friends place one night in the Waitakere rangers and I got picked up by an old guy in a Citroen DS21. As we drove through the dark windy scenic drive I began to wonder if I was going crazy. The headlights didn’t keep pointing straight ahead they swivelled and pointed where the steering wheel was turning. It was I discovered Citroën’s directional  headlights. It’s a great illustration of what Jesus is getting at when he talks about our bodies and lives going where we fix our eyes on, just as the headlights gave the impression of pointing the way the car was to go.  

There is that phrase people often use when it comes to shopping.. “I’ve had my eye on that for quite a while’. Right (whose said that) Adverts are made to be eye-catching. They bombard our senses with what we should buy. I was in a doctors waiting room and I found a magazine which had he byline ‘all about the good life’ the whole thing was about the most prestigious car to own the best jewellery to buy, the best fashion to wear the best luxury  holiday destination. It was full of ads that imagined the good life as being about these consumer goods. I found myself fascinated, fixated. Jesus reiterates his teaching on treasure by saying that our lives will go where our focus is. That can be on the things of this world or as the book of Hebrews encourage us running the race with our eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. When focused on that light can we really settle for the dark emptiness of things.

Then Jesus turns to say you can’t serve God and mammon (or wealth). Ronald Sine says that this generation of young people at University now are going the first generation since the second world war who will not have a better standard of living than their parents. They will not be able to afford to live in the kind of homes that they were brought up in.’ He goes on to say if they decide that that is their goal, it will consume all their time and energy simply to achieve it.’ They will have nothing left for anything else. Even the good Christian folk. That’s a good definition of serving the master of mammon. We are seeing that at the moment in our neighbourhoods, in many homes the need for both partners to work full time to service a mortgage, while paying off student loans. house prices spiralling upward. Sine suggests that the time has come for Churches to point to a new model for housing. Living simply, living communally. Sadly I fear that the church is unable to do that because we have for years been trying to prove Jesus  wrong trying to serve both God and money.

This is going to be contentious, but church buildings can be a good example of that. Winston Churchill said that you spend time shaping a building then you spend the rest of your life being shaped by the building. It’s easy for a community of faith to be caught in the dilemma of servicing a building or serving Christ. Buildings can be a great help to mission and equally a hindrance. Like with all matters of economics we need to keep asking what is our priority where is our treasure, who is the master we serve?

Now Jesus moves to show us a different way to live, the right place to invest and to find financial security.

He invites his followers to consider the sparrows that do not sow or reap but rather trust their heavenly father to feed them. It was great as I was wrestling with this passage this week to look out my window and see birds coming and getting a drink and having a bath in the bird bath in the garden outside my window. They show us says Jesus that we can trust our heavenly father who knows our needs even before we ask him. We are more important than sparrows to God and we can rap and sow, so we should not worry about those things. And says Jesus can anyone actually add another day to their lives by such worrying. In fact modern medical science tells us that anxiety and worry can do just the opposite.

Likewise says Jesus don’t worry about what you will wear, I mean consider the lillies and flowers in the field, they are here today and gone tomorrow but not even king Solomon looked so wonderful as they do. Trusting God enables us to have financial security that God cares and God provides. Yes Christians have responsibilities and need to work and will have troubles, Jesus tells his disciples that today has enough worries of it own, but by being prepared to trust God for our daily needs we have the freedom to focus on the god stuff; The important stuff, the eternal kingdom of God stuff. It enables us to focus on justice rather than just us, the concerns of others rather than our own comfort. To make decisions about what we need and what is really an unnecessary luxury.

Some people like St Francis of Assisi have taken Jesus literally in this and turned their backs on the society of his time, stripping off even the clothes of his rich merchant family to trust God and walking off naked to follow Jesus. We might think that radical and crazy but Francis ignited one of the most amazing revivals in church history. Thousands of people have followed him and committed their life to following Jesus and living a simple life caring for the poor, Franciscans can be seen in every nation round the world today serving Jesus.

Living simply and communally is growing round the world, there is a new monasticism people take that trust and priority in the kingdom of God to downsize and go and live in the harder neighbourhoods to be light and salt there. Others simply live simply so they can give sponsor children, develop a compassion budget and share what they have with other people. 

Jesus is short on nuts and bolts on this passage.  The call is for us to take Jesus seriously when he challenges about our priorities. Economics is where the rubber hits the road. In Luke’s gospel discipleship is measured by how deep it impacts on our pockets. More than anywhere else how we differentiate ourselves from our materialistic consumer society shows that we are not just living that lifestyle that Shane Claiborne calls , the western dream with Jesus sprinkles.