Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fire and accounting for the weather on the Cross Road (Luke 12:49-59)... On The Cross Road: Jesus Journey to Jerusalem in Luke's Gospel and what it means for us today...


We start our services by lighting a candle. It’s symbolic of Jesus being the light of the world. I like it as a ritual, a symbol, I like the way that our children help to focus and lead us in worship in that act each week… It is a reminder of their importance and that God uses them to minister to us and also of our need for a childlike faith.  But after reading the passage from Luke 12 this week I couldn’t help but wonder if this candle wasn’t also symbolic of something else… I wondered if it isn’t symbolic of the fact that we have domesticated Jesus Christ. When we think of Jesus being the light of the world, it is a small candle burning in the background somewhere off to a side. It symbolises Jesus and his Kingdom fitting nicely into our suburban home and lifestyle. In a way that romanticises it to simply being a cosy warming reassuring glow…Peace.  But here at the end of  Luke 12 Jesus says that he came to bring fire to the earth, not a small reassuring candle glow or even a winter warming log burner type fire, that we can fall asleep in front of with toasty warm feet. Rather a fire that would bring division even in families. A fire that calls us to take stock, to be aware of the times and the signs and to settle our accounts, look to be put right with God.

We are working our way through Luke’s account of Jesus final journey to Jerusalem, his journey to the baptism that he had to undergo: His death on the cross and his resurrection to life again. And Luke’s account of this journey, which takes up the central third of the gospel (ch10-19), focuses on Jesus teaching about what it means to follow him… In the last few weeks we’ve been exploring Jesus teaching about being faithful and wholehearted now in light of the coming of the son of man: Both Jesus coming then but also as we await the consummation of the kingdom of God when Christ returns. He told his followers not to fear in the face of persecution, or worry amidst the pull of possessions and wealth because God cares for us, he will give us the words to say, if we put first the kingdom of God he will take care of our needs. Last week we saw Jesus tell the crowd to be ready and live ready, to keep on doing the things that we were called to do, serving God by loving one another and loving our neighbour. Now in a metaphor soaked conclusion, Jesus draws that all together calling for a response calling for repentance.

All the way through Jesus teaching in Luke 12 who Jesus is speaking to is always a critical question. We see that he oscillates between speaking to the wider crowd and speaking to his close disciples. AS we saw last week it got to the point that Peter himself was confused and asked Jesus was he talking to everyone or just the twelve? But here Jesus context is definitely the crowd, In verse 54 it tells us plainly that Jesus was speaking to the crowd. You may remember we talked about it being like the Euro16 crowd made up of supporters and also elements bent of disruption and violence. It was a crowd of many thousand, a crowd unlike in earlier times that was benign here we know it is now made up of a group who see Jesus and his teaching and actions as evil and are simply waiting for him to trip up.  If it was in today’s digital age they want ammunition to de-meme-ise him on social media, but for that day they want to demonise him in society’s mind. Another group have not made up their mind but they are looking for greater and greater signs, they want Jesus to prove himself beyond a shadow of a doubt. Maybe they won’t be satisfied that he is the messiah till he brings peace to Israel, but driving out the occupying Romans. Then we have those who genuinely want to hear and know the truth about Jesus and of course his followers. This passage acts as Jesus starting his final appeal to the people of Israel, all these different people to respond and recognise who he is and what that means.

Jesus conclusion is in three paragraphs, three sections. In the first he reiterates his mission, but in a way that is rather shocking and challenging, as bringing fire and causing division not peace.  Jesus then uses the image of knowing what will happen because of the way the wind blows as a way of challenging his listeners to recognise the spiritual climate of the time. And lastly he uses the metaphor of the roman system of dealing with debt to call people to repent, to settle their accounts.

Jesus starts by saying “I have come to bring fire on the earth’ and in scripture fire can mean both judgment and the Spirit. In this case we find both. We are not comfortable talking about judgement we view it through the lens of hellfire and damnation.  But in scripture God’s judgment is always redemptive, God punished Israel for their sins and unfaithfulness not to write them off or condemn them but so that they might turn back to him and be reconciled. Fire is seen as being a purifying force, and when it ties in with Jesus refereeing to his death and resurrection as a baptism we see that Judgement for Jesus is identifying with God’s judgment and making a way for us to be forgiven and put right with God. More than that it will mean that God can send his Holy Spirit on all who believe, who are made righteous because of Jesus death and resurrection. That they may be a new people anew family of God and live in a new way: be people who live out the Kingdom of God.

But this would call people to make a choice, to choose to put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ. It would bring division and separation even in families, and he hammers home his point here by listing so many possible combinations. Jesus himself had said, “who is my brother who is my mother, those who hear my word and obey them?” I had a Jewish man take us through the Passover feast one year and as he shared his story of becoming a follower of Jesus, a messianic Jew, he said that his orthodox Jewish family had held a funeral for him when he told them of his new faith. A convert from Islam talks of the look of pain and sorrow in his mother and fathers eyes each time he came home after he had told them he had become a follower of Jesus. I think the people of Israel were looking for a peace for themselves as a nation, but as Paul would say in Romans as he mourned for his people, that the true Israel was a remnant not by birth but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus then turns to talk about the weather, not to make idol small talk to ease the tension, but to make his point and ask his listeners to pay attention to the spiritual climate. I got surprised on Thursday morning by the thunder storm that struck about 11 o’clock you see the wind blew from the west and my office is on the east side ofthe church so it snuck over the church without me noticing.  Till the flash a lighting bolt and torrential rain. But everyone in Judah knew that if the wind was going to blow from the west there would be rain, the wind would bring air up off the Mediterranean and particularly in autumn and spring it would bring rain. I was standing talking to a farmer just out of Clinton down in south Otago, we were in the middle of a paddock looking out towards central Otago on a very hot summers day. Black heat clouds sat on the hills and started to move down towards us with torrential rain. I suggested to the farmer who had just talked about his property being in drought, that here was some rain and maybe we should head for cover. But he shock his head and said no need it will stop right there just beyond my property and sure enough it did… he knew the weather round that part of the country… Local knowledge. Jesus says if the wind blows from the south you know it’s going to be hot… because the wind comes like a furnace blast off the desert lands. I guess a bit like in Dunedin you know if the wind blows from the south its going to be cold… you realise there is nothing between you and the south pole except the curvature of the earth.  The wind that blows is what is known as a lazy wind… no matter how warmly you are wrapped up how many layers you have on… the cold wind is going to be bothered going round you  blow right through you and chill you to the core. Jesus of course picked the rain and the hot wind to compliment his talking of fire and the cleansing of baptism. Then he calls those who do not acknowledge him as God’s son hypocrites, they have a mask of religious understanding, but they know nothing. He calls them to look again closely at hat is going on and to make a decision.  For those who had written him off or were still seeking a sign it was a call to look at his teaching and his deeds and to see that he was God’s messiah. It’s the same for us today, we have the scriptures, the gospels to look and see what Jesus did and said, and to see how his early follows came to the conclusion that Jesus is the son of God, who died and was raised to life again so we might be set free. We have the evidence just as Jesus day did of changed and transformed lives. In my devotions this week Niki Gumble shared the story of Billy Nolan who as an alcoholic for 35years, for twenty years he sat outside Holy Trinity drinking and begging money, finally he decided one morning to ask Jesus into his life and made a covenant to give up drinking. His life was transformed  Nicky asked him one  day why he was so happy  and billy replied … “I am happy because I am free. Life is like a maze and at last I have found a way out through Jesus Christ”. we also have the witness of God people the church to show us what Jesus is like. It’s why things like alpha and the life course are good tool for evangelism because they share peoples testimonies allow people to look and ask questions about Jesus and also meet and get to know his followers.

Then Jesus Moves on to say once they have seen the times then they need to respond. He uses the image of the roman system of dealing with debt. That if a debt cannot be paid the person will be thrown into debtor’s prison until they pay every penny. They usually got into that situation because they didn’t have the means to pay and would have to rely on a kind benefactor and family member to pay what they owed. Jesus tells the crowd if they know what the time is they will settle their accounts before they face the judge. He acknowledges that the judge wold be right to cast them into prison till they could pay their debt… So they should look to settle before they get there.  Now Jesus isn’t finishing his message with a plea from the local bank about unpaid debts, rather he is telling them that when they see who Jesus is they need to look at settling accounts with God.  Scripture uses the analogy of debt to talk about our sin, an when we thing of sin against God we have a debt there is no way we could pay. We can’t work enough to earn God’s forgiveness or favour. We can slip a big enough bride under the counter, this judge is righteous. Once again this is a call for people to come to Jesus, Jesus was looking with great anticipation to the fact that because of his life and death and resurrection he is able to forgive our debt, forgive our sins, his blood has paid the price, can cancel the debt, put us right with God, and set us free. But says Jesus now is the time to seek that. Now is the time to look to acknowledging that Jesus is the son of God, humbly asking for that forgiveness. We put it off we may find it is too late.

How does this impact on us today.

The first is if you don’t know Jesus today, Jesus call is to find out discover and see who he is and what he has done for us. Find out seek Jesus check it out for your-self. The life course at the Landmark coming up in September might be a good step on this journey.  Maybe you’ve been in church for a long time or all your life and you know about Jesus but you’ve never asked him to be your lord and saviour. Now is the time.. For those of us who know Christ when we are reminded of the good things that Christ has done for us…His sacrifice, for our salvation, his baptism so that we may be made clean… Who know the wonder and privilege of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the challenge is equally to respond. It is equally to check our balance. Not only our need for on-going forgiveness but to look at our lives and see if this fire Christ bought this revolution of grace is simply the candle over there in the corner , or is it the essential light that illuminates our whole lives, all we say and do. Is it the cosy log burning fire that warms us with tis glow and gives us a comfortable place to be complacent and fall asleep or is it the burning fire at the centre of our passion and love.  That others might know this Jesus, that they might experience that same grace and compassion we know in Christ, that the world might be full of the righteousness and justice of God.  The challenge of this passage is that challenge to decide. Choose. Check your balance in light of God’s great mercy and love. God has been faithful and wholehearted in his love for us the call of this whole chapter has been to being faithful and wholehearted in response.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prayer and thanksgiving and confession from 'crosswind' a prayer and healing service here at St Peter's


We held a Prayer and Healing Service here at St Peter's on Sunday night. It was great to have the ministry team from the Presbytery come and share and pray in the Service and to have people from other Presbyterian Churchs in the city join us.


Here is the prayer of thanksgiving and confession I worte for the evening. Crosswind was the title and I saw it as the wind of the spirit of God blowing and bringing the grace and new life of the cross into our lives today.



Loving God we gather before you tonight from all over

We come together to give you praise for who you are

To thank you for the great things you have done for us,

That great list of benefits we read together from the psalms*

That we experience and know in our lives in Christ
To allow your word read and preached to minister to us
That we may know strengthening and healing by your Spirits presence
that the wind of the God may blow the grace of the cross into our lives today
That it may blow through us to the people of this city
we gather together to celebrate your great love



A love shown in creation

When the spirit hovered over the waters

And you spoke your word and it came into being

We thank you for the wonder of it all

The vastness of galaxy swirl,

when we look up at our star studded night sky,

The uniqueness of our Island home

Your provision through good  soil and seed,

Our uniqueness and diversity  as human beings

Each different, yet all crafted as an expression of your love



A love shown in the sending of your son Jesus,

The word becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us

A clear picture to all  of Your grace and mercy

Jesus bought good news to the poor

Healing for sick, recovery of sight for the blind

Freedom from  bondage and release from sin and death

In his death on the cross we are forgiven, the slate wiped clean

Reconciled with you as our loving heavenly father

Through his resurrection we have received new life

Abundant life now in Christ and eternal life then with Christ



We thank you for your love present in our lives today

That you are faithful to your promise and sent your spirt

That you poured out your Holy Spirit on all who believe

 At Pentecost and a Pentecost reality for us today

That the wind of God blows from the cross, bringing your grace

You fill us with your presence; you lead us and guide us in all truth

You empower us to witness to the hope we have in Jesus Christ

You enable us to love one another as Christ has loved us

You equip us to bring your healing and wholeness to those in need

You nurture Christ like fruit in our lives, and draw us together



Loving and righteous God, allow the wind of the cross to blow in us

Forgive us for our sins, and cleanse us from all unrghteousness

Forgive us fir what we have done wrong, and the good we have left undone

Meet us at the point of our need that we may be made whole

Fill us afresh this evening with your Holy Spirit

Send us out from here revived and renewed

That we may bear witness to you in this city you love

That we may in word and deed, power and love make Jesus known

Renew our passion for Jesus and ou compassion for his people and world

That you maybe glorified O God; father, son and Holy Spirit.


*The call to worship that evening was a great reminder of the goodness and grace of God from psalm 103:1-12

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
the Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbour his anger for ever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us



Be ready, live ready: Keeping on keeping on following Jesus (Luke 12:35-48)... Walking the CrossRoad: Jesus jounrey to Jerusalem in Luke's Gospel (ch 10-19) and what it means for us as followers of Jesus (part 10)




Are you ready?”

And If you are a parent you’ll know that is the question every journey starts with.

“Are you ready? It’s time to go?”

And I’ve discovered being ready is a relative term…”are you ready?”

“Yes”

“Why are you still on the computer? Where are your shoes? And it’s going to be cold later so where is your jumper?” And if you’re a Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy fan or simply going swimming or to the beach or on holiday that all important question “have you got your towel?”

“Surely you’re not going to go out in that? Have you brushed your teeth? Have you brushed your hair?” “Did someone feed the cat? Lock the back door? What do you mean you just need to pack!

I thought you said you were ready?”

Then, if you’re like me, once you’ve got everyone ready it’s usually …“are we ready? Oh wait! Where did I put my keys? Where is my wallet? Where are my glasses? Where is my towel? “Have I got those tickets? The directions? And yes I know we could just use google maps?”

Are you ready? Get ready? Live ready? This is the imperative Jesus gives his disciples in the passage we had read to us this morning from Luke 12. Be ready for the coming of the son of man.Are you ready? Be ready, live ready…



We are working our way through Luke’s account of Jesus final journey to Jerusalem: His journey to the cross and resurrection; A journey that takes up the central third of the gospel (ch10-19); a journey in which the narrative focuses on Jesus teaching on what it means for us to follow him.  Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at Jesus teaching his disciples about being faithful and wholehearted, about being faithful and wholehearted in the face of opposition and persecution and the pull of wealth and possessions. In each case he has pointed out a sin they needed to avoid, hypocrisy and greed, and encouraged them not to fear not to worry but to trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness and care. In each instance Jesus invites his followers to live faithfully now in light of the coming of the kingdom of God. The coming of the kingdom of God: inaugurated, started, by Jesus life, death and resurrection, where the rule and reign of God had broken into the realms of humanity…and awaiting its consummation, fulfilment, when the Son of Man returns. Are you ready? Get ready, live ready…

It’s interesting that when we talk about the idea of end times or the coming of Christ, many people want to focus on the signs of the times. They want to look and see how does what is happening in the world today line up with what the Bible says about those times, they fit and squeeze the happenings of their day into the vivid images of books like Revelation. They want to know if it’s close so they will be ready…But when Jesus talks of the times to come, he focuses on three things. The first is certainty: certainty that the son of man will come. We see that in parables that Jesus tells here, the master does return, the thief will come. Secondly uncertainty, that no one knows the hour or day… the thief comes in the night, the unfaithful servant discovers that the master returns on the day he least expects him. Thirdly in light of that certain return and in the face of that uncertain timing God’s people need to be ready, watchful and waiting, but waiting isn’t a passive thing. It’s not the impassive sigh, as we stand around and wait, because dad’s rushed back into the house for the third time to get something he’s forgotten. It’s not the pensive walking up and down the platform at the train station because the trains late…AS we see in the parables we had read today it’s about persevering in serving and faithful loving your fellow servants and doing the things God has called you to do. It’s keeping on keeping on following Jesus, wholeheartedly and faithfully. Are you ready?

The two parables Jesus uses in this section use the imagery of a roman household, in particular the slave/ servant relationship with his master or Lord. The first parable tells the story of a master who is late coming back from a wedding banquet, we tend to forget that such banquets could go on for days in the Ancient middle east. The faithful servants continue to be ready for the master to come even if it is after midnight, well actually closer to dawn. They are there ready and waiting and open the door for him. And Jesus paints a wonderful picture of the master’s reaction; he changes his clothes and serves them. WE have a foretaste of that whenever we celebrate communion, as it Jesus who invites us come to his table, where he meets us, feeds us, strengthens us, and we remember how he served us and saved us in his death and resurrection. It’s a foretaste of sitting down with the Lord when he returns. Our Lord, who came not to be served but to serve.

The parable is flipped on its head, as Jesus says if the master knew what time the thief was coming he’d be ready for him and the house wouldn’t be broken into. You could imagine getting a phone call from bob and bob ‘the considerate burglars’ just to let you know that they were planning on breaking into your house between 2am-3am tomorrow night and they hoped it was convenient and they would appreciate you not calling the police as for some strange reason the police seemed to be spoiling their business a lot lately. That does not happen… Jesus says we simply need to Be ready today now because we do not know the time or day.

The second parable is about a manager. Someone who has been put in charge of the household while the master is away. This person is responsible for caring for the other servants, feeding them and looking after them. But the manager decides that the master is taking a long time and abuses his position of power, not feeding them, it becomes quite violent and he beats them both the men and the women. He hordes the food and drink and binges and is drunk. When the master comes we find that the manger is punished, and treated as if they are a non-believer.

Between these two parables Peter had asked Jesus a question. AS we’ve worked our way through Luke chapter 12 we’ve seen that Jesus has been going backwards and forwards between speaking to the large crowd that had gathered and speaking directly to his disciples. And Peter is helpful here because I guess like most of us who are reading this passage we are kind of confused at this stage as well. Who is Jesus speaking to? So Peter asks is he talking to everybody or just to the twelve, just to the disciples?  Jesus answer leaves the door open to it being both. Jesus had started this whole section with a warning against the yeast of the Pharisees. These parables could be seen as a critic of the history of Israel and the fact that they have missed the coming of the Son of Man. The second parable resounds with words such as those in Ezekiel 34 where the Lord judges the leadership of Israel for feeding themselves and not the flock, and caring for themselves while the needs of the sheep go unmet. It open enough to apply to us all, but also Jesus focuses on the people who have positions of responsibility within the household of God, to be faithful in fulfilling those roles, feeding and caring for God’s people. To those who much is given, both God’s people Israel and the church, much is expected. The only time there is negative talk and talk of punishment for those who believe in terms of our future hope is for leaders who abuse their power, do not care for the poor.  In the church it is a great challenge to those of us who feel God’s call to lead.

I want to bring this back to today and where we are and where we live. What does it mean to be ready, to live ready for the coming of the son of man? It’s been two thousand years since these words were spoken. What does this passage say about perseverance, and keeping on keeping on?

It would be great is Jesus would provide us with a check list wouldn’t it. Like you see pilots use and tick off as they get ready to take flight. The pre pre-flight check, the pre-flight check, the pre take off check etc… But he doesn’t. In this passage it’s parables, stories which are quite open ended and non-specific.

But quickly I see three things. The first is clothed ready for service… while it comes from the Old Testament and the exodus when the people of Israel were to eat the pass over meal dressed in their travelling clothes so they could leave when the time was right. In the scriptures the right clothes is also an image for salvation and forgiveness. Our dirty rages of unrighteousness, our clothes stained by all we have done wrong, as we ask Jesus to forgive us and put our trust in him are exchanged for spotless garments. Being ready is to know daily the great reality of what Christ has done for us. That we are forgiven and set free: Our live are transformed by knowing Christ. And each day we live our life out of that wonderful reality. I’m using the bible in a year app for my devotions. It has a bible reading from psalms or proverbs, the new testament and the old testament along with comment from Nicky Gumble, who heads up Alpha, a programme to introduce people to the Christian faith. It’s great but I found myself thinking Nicky must think I need salvation because every day every devotion pulls us back to Jesus life and his saving love for us. But I’m getting it know, this great love is at the centre of our faith, it is the motivation of our love for God and for each other. We need to be reminded and experience it daily to be ready for it fulfilment.

The second thing is the lamps burning. In the Olivet  discourse in Matthew’s gospel about the end times, Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins, waiting for the bride groom, who again is late and comes towards dawn. Five of them have kept their oil supplies up and five did not, and it speaks of the need for us to continue to be filled by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Keeping up our devotional life and spiritual life. A vibrant prayer life and bible study, allowing God to speak into our lives, and minister to us. So we can give to those around us. We need to focus on keeping our lamp bright.

The third thing is the call to be committed to loving one another. To keep our faith vibrant and ready for Christ we need each other. Genuine faith is worked out by how we care for each other. Our love for God is reflected in our love for neighbour. Faith without works is dead.  There is much debate about journeys… Is a journey all about the destination or the getting there. Is it about the goal achieved or the process we go through? In his insightful book ‘11’ Leonard Sweet says that for the Christian it’s neither but rather who we cross the finish line with.   The Christian journey is a team sport. If you’ve watched the ‘tour de France’ you’ll see that the rider who wins the race is dependent on his team to do their part. They keep cover over his nearest rivals. Lead him out when he needs to make a break, they will lead him out for the last sprint. Sweet says it’s the same for the Christian faith we need each other… In fact he says there are 11 indispensable relationships we need.. We need an encourager in our lives, and an editor, we need someone to kick our butt, we need a trusted friend,  someone who will mentor us, and someone we can pass things on to, we need people who haven’t got it together who need us to help and people who do have t together and can help us get it together ourselves. We find that in the church, sadly when people feel like giving up they will give up on the church before they give up on Christ. But in this rag tag group of people together we have the people we need to love and be loved by to be and stay ready for Jesus. Even sadly when there are times that we beat up on each other.

Lastly. We need to live ready because the hope of the appearance of the master is not just a future hope. It is a reality that we can know today. The image I used for the service this morning is one I took up at the batch at Sandy Bay we stayed at last week. It was dusk and the whole sea and coast turned silver as the sun began to dip over the hill. I looked across at the open door and saw how the beauty of the scene had stepped across the threshold of the batch by being reflected in the glass of the old fashioned door. Be ready for Jesus live ready for Jesus, because in our everyday life, Jesus may appear at the door, may come and step into the darkness with us bringing his light. Be ready live ready for the kingdom of God because in our lives and our community and our world, because we are there and faithfully serving and loving, the kingdom of God can break into the day and night we are waiting in. To bring hope, salvation, healing, wholeness, justice, peace, God’s rule and reign. It may be just a glimpse or a foretaste of what is to come. But it brings the creators presence and power. So Be ready, live ready, you never know the hour, but the son of man will come.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Facing Down Worry On The Cross Road (Luke 12:13-34)... On The Cross Road: Jesus Journey to Jerusaelm in Luke's Gospel (ch10-19) and what it means for us today (Part 9)


In the church I worked in in Tauranga there was a man who had served in the artillery during the Second World War. He had served in the western desert with the New Zealand division, It had affected him greatly. He said he’d never seen anyone killed but he knew each time the gun he serviced fired it meant death. One of the ways it affected him was that when he came back to New Zealand he decided that he didn’t want to go overseas again. He just wanted to stay put.  This made it hard for his wife who particularly after they retired wanted to travel. She’d never been out of New Zealand, and when asked he would say ‘I’ve been and I’ve seen enough’.

Finally however he agreed to take his wife to Australia. She was so excited. The thing that changed his mind was a chance to see the wild flowers bloom in the desert. He remembered seeing them before. You see amidst the heat and desolation of the Libyan Desert the rain would come and just for a brief period afterward the desert would become a place of vibrant colour and life, the flowers in their vivid radiance would flourish just for a brief season and then as the heat and dry came back they would wither and die. He’d always remembered their vivid beauty I guess it gave him hope. Jesus invites us to consider the wild flowers here today and gone tomorrow, but more beautiful and wonderful than King Solomon in all his splendour so that we would know how much God cares for us, and be able to face down worry on the cross road following Jesus.

We are working our way through Luke’s narrative of Jesus final journey to Jerusalem, the one that would lead to the Cross. The narrative of that journey takes up the central third of Luke’s gospel (ch 10-19) and it focuses on Jesus teaching about what it means to be his followers. What it means to walk the cross road with Jesus. In the section we are working our way through at the moment Jesus deals with the challenge to stay faithful amidst the pressures of life that would cause us to turn away.

At our Parish Council meeting in June we had a good discussion about worry and a good devotion on putting our trust in God. But one of the points that came up was the question is worry a sin? I mean to worry is to have a lack of trust in God? I have to admit I worried about that? It just does not feel right. In the passage we looked at last week and this week we have sins that Jesus warns his disciples to be on guard against. They were the yeast of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy: putting on a mask of faith and piety that does not come from a full-hearted faith in God… this week it’s all kinds of greed; a desire to be satisfied by more and more things, or possessions instead of relationship with God. But he also encourages them not give in to anxieties that go along with those sins. In the case of persecution fear, instead they should be bold and courageous and proclaim Jesus in the face of persecution trusting God to provide them the words. In this case they are not to worry about the necessities of life but rather live out their faith in Jesus with generous love and care for their neighbours.

Worry and fear are physiological reactions, one to danger and the other to actual or potential problems in our lives. They are seen as the negative expressions of the reactions in us that help us, that adrenaline buzz we need when faced with danger, or gives that ability to work harder and focus on solving a problem. But they are also responses that can draw us away from God. It depends on how we handle them. In the parable of the sower Jesus talks of the seed that had fallen amongst the weeds, it sprouted and grew, but it was chocked out by the weeds, and he explains that as being like people who hear the word of God respond to it but it is cocked out by all the worries of the world and the deception of possessions. It is how our faith comes to the fore in these times that allows us to stay faithful to Christ.

How do we deal with worry? How do we stop it from chocking the life and faith out of us?

The first thing Jesus talks about is perspective.

In the passage we read this morning Jesus is teaching the crowd about being a follower of his, about salvation and the kingdom of God and he is interrupted by a man who wants him to adjudicate in a dispute over inheritance with his brother. The man wants Jesus to bring his religious authority to bear on the matter. Jesus is not having a bar of it. He uses the interruption to tell his disciples to be on guard against all forms of greed. He tells the parable of the rich farmer, who had a bumper year, through no work or skill of his own actually finds his wealth increase. Who decides that he will have to build a bigger barn to store all this and relax because he has made it… he can eat drink and be merry… His security his identity all he is, is invested in what he has. We might think the man blessed, no money worries, But Jesus says God sees him as a fool. “You fool tonight your life is forfeited and who is going to get your wealth now?” In the Old Testament a fool is someone who lives their lives without reference to God. The man didn’t acknowledge God’s providence in the bumper crop, had no thought for God’s justice in how it was going to be used, though of his life and security and comfort in only what he had. In the end it came to nothing.

We can focus on life being about what we do and do not have, what we can and cannot do about something, and miss the reality of God. I used the picture of this sparrow last week, and with the wonders of modern technology it was cropped.

The right perspective is this God in the picture (represented by the cross). That is how we are invited to face financial issues and other worries in our life.


Secondly, providence. Not only perspective that God is in the picture, but a right understanding of the character of God. Jesus turns to his disciples now and says don’t worry about the essentials of life. You see Jesus brings good news to the poor. Most of his listeners were not having those first world problems but dealing with subsistence living issues. How were they going to feed and clothe their families? Jesus invites them to look again at creation. Look at the ravens, they don’t sow or reap, they don’t have barns and storehouses, God cares for them and feeds them. Now we might thing that a raven is a step up from a sparrow, but in Jewish thought it was the other way round. Raven’s were unclean animals. Part of the success of this species is that they are opportunistic omnivores. They will eat anything, they are scavengers, and what mae them unclean was that they often dined on carrion, dead flesh . But shock God cares and provides even for these filthy animals. How much more does God care for you?

The wild flowers don’t weave cloth, doesn’t work hard yet they are more beautiful that Solomon,  the high point of fashion and power in Israel’s history.    Consider the daises in your back lawn, they are beautiful enough to make daisy chains for your daughter one minute and the next you’ve mowed over them, they are caught up in the catcher and  you’ve lobed them into the compost, or the gradin sack for someone to pick up and take away. But God has clothed them in such splendour. You are more precious to God than those flowers. God cares and God provides.

Sandwiched in the middle of those two Jesus says that really worrying about those things aren’t going to do any good anyway. We can’t add a single day to our lives, an hour or a minute by doing it. In fact we know that worry and stress is a killer, it shortens life. Instead of worry we need to learn to rely on God’s providence his care his ability to provide. Just a quick illustration, while I worked at the same church in Tauranga, two girls in my youth group said they couldn’t come to a labour weekend camp at Hunua Falls. I told them money shouldn’t be an issue, and not to worry , I’d pray and God would provide. Kris and I were not in a position to pay the extra $100 to get them there.  Next day I won $100 on a silly radio show quiz. The announcer was amazed I was able to guess a particular movie from one line of dialogue. Usually they only gave away a smaller amount as with each clue the amount went down but by the grace of God I got it first time. I rang the girls and told them they could come to camp. Over the weekend they told one of the leaders that they were both depressed and had decided if nothing changed over the weekend they would commit suicide. Teenage angst and drama or real I don’t know. I do know that God meet them that weekend in a way that bought new life and hope.  God cares God is able to provide.

It’s not don’t worry be happy it’s don’t worry rather trust in the goodness and love of God. In the end God already knows what we need.

Finally it’s about priority.

Jesus says the priority for the pagan nations around Israel was on what they would have to eat and drink. Clothes and food and possessions, they worry about those things, but we are to live differently, we are to live kingdom of God values: To have the priority of being wholehearted about Jesus. Of course as this is Luke’s gospel this has an outworking in how we use our resources. We can live generously and in a way where what we have is used to love our neighbour and care for poor, because God cares for us and is able to provide for our needs.  God is not anti-wealth he is not calling us to be destitute, but rather to change our priority for life and for what we have. It about where we want to invest our resources… in this realm or in God’s kingdom.   In Acts 2 it says that as a church they did not have anyone who had a need, because people sold their possessions and gave the money to the apostles, not to line their pockets and so they could live in flash houses but to give to people who needed it.  A home group at the church I gew up in,, had a couple whose car died and they didn’t have the money to replace it. Another couple in the group had money saved up to replace their beaten up old car that just might make it a bit longer so they gave their money to the couple without the car. Another couple in the group were in the process of updating to the latest model and decided well they could live with last year’s model for one more year and gave their money to the second couple.  I think in the end someone won lotto and it paid for all of them. My mum was part of another home group made up of widows who did the same thing on a smaller level simply sharing the little they had over each week with people who were short that week.  But you see how prioritising the kingdom of God can decrease worry in a whole community of faith. Challenging aye… I wonder how much worry we still have because we still don’t put the kingdom of God first as a community.

On Wednesday morning I was taking the rubbish bins back from the gate here at the church across the carpark and up the drive to where they are kept by the manse. Do it every week. It may have been the onset of the stomach bug that hit with real vengeance that afternoon, but I found myself looking down. The bins were empty, but it felt like I was dragging all the cares of the world behind me. My forehead (which seems to get bigger each year)  was knotted and tight my neck straining with the stress. A whole raft of concerns seemed to delight to flash tauntingly across my mind’s eye. Then I stopped and looked up.  The tree up in the corner of the section which has always been here and I take for granted, suddenly struck me with its beauty. The deep green in stark contrast to that light blue sky we’ve been having on those cold clear mornings. I gained perspective, the beauty of creation and the awesomeness of the creator, I remembered providence, the God who made this, cares for me, loves me, has given his son to gain my forgiveness, and has sent his holy spirit to live in me, and he cares and provides… and started to work with priorities all these things I need to do… I could do them and in all of them I wanted to put God first. I’ve got them done despite that stomach bug. People don’t worry, look up… God cares God provides, we can put him first and he will take care of the rest.  

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Courage and Trust on the Cross Road (Luke 12:1-12): On The Cross Road: Jesus Journey to Jerusalem (luke ch 10-19) and what it has to say to us today (part 8)





I sat down to write my message for this morning on Thursday I had been wrestling with the passage we read today which is full of some difficult sayings of Jesus. And that day I was blessed by my daily devotions… you see in Nicky Gumbel’s opening comments,  I found a great summary of what Luke is talking about in the passage we had read to us  Luke 12:1-12…
  “The message of Jesus is the most powerful message in the world. It is good news. It changes lives. It changes cities and cultures. Yet it is also a message that provokes opposition. God equips you to pass on this message by giving you the Holy Spirit”.
In this passage Jesus talks of being faithful in the light of persecution: he talks of overcoming that very human response of fear so we can walk the cross road following Jesus with courage and trust.
We are working our way through Jesus journey to Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel, a journey that takes up the central third of the gospel narrative (ch 10-19), a Journey narrative that focuses on Jesus teaching on what it means for us to follow him.  Today we are moving into a new block of teaching, over the past few weeks we’d seen that Jesus was heading more and more into conflict with the religious and political leaders of the day and in light of that he calls his disciples and us to be faithful. He focuses on two things that should encourage us; Seeing present trials and challenges in light of eternity, and a correct understanding of the nature of God. We can be faithful because of who God is and that God will bring his plans and proposes to fulfilment in Jesus Christ.
The passage opens with a temporal link ‘meanwhile’ we’ve moved on in the narrative to a new situation but it’s not a clean break with what has gone before.  We are told that there is a great crowd of many thousands, and while the crowd in the earlier part of Luke’s gospel are always seen as a benign presence, here we are told they were trampling on one another, it is a bit more threatening. Maybe it was a bit like the crowds for euro 2016, a mix of the ecstatic and eccentric Icelanders and their joyful synchronised clapping but also those elements of Russian and English fans spoiling for a fight. Because in the previous passage we’ve been told there are elements who think that Jesus is motivated by evil, others who are demanding that Jesus show them greater and greater signs, and that the Pharisees and scribes are there questioning and hoovering waiting for Jesus to slip up so they can pounce.  In Luke’s gospel when there is a crowd Jesus turns to his disciples and teaches them about true discipleship.  Jesus is aware that the pressure of the crowd can cause us to compromise our faith, either the pull of popularism, to simply keep on pleasing the crowd or the push of persecution to appease the crowd.   Both pressures have historically caused the church to compromise their faithfulness to Jesus and push and pull at our faith: The pull to conform to the standards and social norms of today and the push against our faith, at least to keep it to ourselves.
Jesus starts by calling his disciples to be on guard, not against the unruly crowd, but the unruly tendencies of their own heart; to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. Yeast was added to dough to make it rise but in Jewish thinking it was also a metaphor for sin that once it is entertained can infect the whole mixture or dough.  In the passage we looked at last week Jesus had used a play on words to challenge the Pharisees, he had said they had missed the love of God and others but loved the good seats in the synagogue and the respectful greetings in the market place. It all had to do with external appearance not what was at the heart. Here Jesus sums that up with the word hypocrisy. It was a mask an act they put on. Jesus calls us to be wholeheartedly committed to him, that we are to be people of integrity, our outward actions and reactions, how we live and how we love should be a reflection of what is at our heart, our external life should be a reflection of our internal life, regardless of who is watching.

Jesus finishes his warning about this with a series of three sayings about what happens in secret will be made known. It has a present real life application: eventually the mask will crack or we will drop the act and people will see what is really at our core, what we believe will become known, in times of great pressure to conform or persecution is definitely one of those times. It also has an eternal application as well. As we move through this passage there is a time when we will stand before God and what is in the heart will be made known. King David is an example of that in scripture. He is known as a man after God’s own heart, he has integrity, now sadly he blows it big time, he is not perfect, but even in that case when confronted with his sin he repents and turns back to God. We have his powerful prayer of confession in psalm 51. 


Jesus moves from the pull of popularism to the push of persecution. He tells his disciples, they are not to fear those who can kill the body, but rather fear him who can throw you in to hell. Ok relax Jesus isn’t getting into the old hellfire and brimstone preaching here and neither am I. firstly Jesus is a realist, he knows what is going to happen to his followers that they like he will face persecution and death. He tells him in verse 11 they will be bought before synagogues rulers and authorities, there is going to be pressure to deny Jesus. Church history is full of persecution and martyrs and Jesus is saying don’t fear that, even though they can and will kill you, rather fear God.
Of course fear can be understood in two ways, the first is the crippling fear of being afraid, scared, petrified, it’s the sort of fear that can cause us to turn away from trusting Jesus Christ can cause us to deny him.  The other fear is the idea of respect and honour. Jesus here is NOT saying we should be afraid of God because God’s got the bigger stick, rather our respect for and honour of God should enables us to be faithful to him, cause in the end he is the one who cares.
This is where our understanding of God’s character comes into play. Firstly in this passage it is the only place in Luke’s gospel where he addresses his disciples as my friends, I tell you my friends do not be afraid… He’s speaking out of love and compassion. But also telling them that God cares for them. God is not angry or vindictive, God cares. God cares for the sparrows, that in the market place are a dime a dozen, they are still sold to be eaten but he cares for them. When I worked at the chapel at Auckland University I used to sit outside and have my lunch, and sometime just sit out under the trees and pray, and the sparrows would come round for food or because they wanted to join in the prayers. At a glance they all looked the same but if you looked at them they were all unique and different, you had to look for it. God invests such creative energy into these sparrows uniqueness. He cares for us so much more. He knows our most intimate detail and need, he even knows how many hairs are on our head. Ok there is room for a joke here, but I’m not going to make it… and maybe some of us are just trying to make God’s job a bit easier…  we respect God because God cares for us.
There is a correlation between what we do in this life and what happens in eternity. Jesus goes on in typical Jewish though patterns to repeat what he has said in a negative way in a positive one. He says that if we acknowledge him before humanity, he will acknowledge us before the angels of God. There is reward for those who are faithful. If we reject Jesus in front of people, Jesus will do that before the heavens. 
Then we have this really tough saying of Jesus that those who speak words against the son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. I think it’s there to be reassuring, but I know many young people who have in youth group asked about this unforgiveable sin, worried they might inadvertently commit it.  The first thing I always tell them is if you are even worried about then that’s good proof you haven’t committed it.
Scripture and history show that those who have rejected and spoken against Jesus have been welcomed back and forgiven. Peter who denied Jesus three times is reconciled with Jesus after the resurrection. ‘Peter do you love me, peter do you love me, peter do you love me… He is commissioned to be an apostle and a shepherd of God’s people. Saul stood at the stoning of Stephen and held peoples coats, so they could throw stones, he persecuted the church and yet on the road to Damascus meets the risen Jesus and his life is transformed he becomes Paul the apostle to the gentiles and writer of much of our New Testament. I could go on, many of Jesus greatest advocates started out anti-Jesus. Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is an ongoing rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. Pharaoh in the Old Testament is a biblical example, when God shows him his power it says that pharaoh hardened his heart again and again, till finally it says that God hardened pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the people go. It is encouraging for us because even if we buckle under pressure we know that the God who cares about us will and does forgive and restore. One of the big pastoral issues for the early church when it faced persecution was how they treated those who had buckled under and when demanded of them sacrificed to the roman emperor as God. Richard wurmbrand was a Christian leader who was imprisoned for many years and tortured in communist Romania and he talks of having to deal with meeting fellow prisoners who had denied the faith or even informed on him and his colleges and then later fallen foul of the communist regime. Some continued to deny Christ, others repented and returned.  
Finally in the face of persecution, Jesus gives his disciples great hope, that the God who cares for them and who would pour out his holy spirit would be there with them and in situations of conflict and confrontation would give them the words to say. Now one commentator said quite rightly this is not a passage for teachers and preachers who don’t prepare well , rather it is when we find ourselves in situation where we are called on to defend our faith in Jesus Christ. I think the great example in scripture is Stephen in the book of acts whose response to the Sanhedrin, the religious court in Jerusalem is a wonder exposition of Israel’s history and how it all points to Jesus. It says that they could contend against him.  The God who cares is the God who gives us his Spirit to be with us and enable us especially in times when we need that help.

friends don’t be afraid…Don’t be afraid… Jesus calls us to walk the cross road with courage and trust… Yup it’s not an easy road, as Jesus says in john 16:33  ‘in this life there will be trouble…yes we will face pressure to assimilate to compromise the gospel.. yes we will face the pressure of opposition and persecution … 'But take heart… Jesus has overcome the world'… do not fear, God cares, Jesus Christ came and lived and died that you may be forgiven and have new and abundant life… the Holy Spirit dwells with and within you… to empower and to guide, to teach and to lead. He will guide you home and welcome you, ‘well done good and faithful servant.


Courage and trust on the Cross Road (Luke 12:1-12): On The Corss Road: Jesus Journey to Jerusalem (luke ch 10-19) and what it has to say to us today (part 8)



I sat down to write my message for this morning on Thursday I had been wrestling with the passage we read today which is full of some difficult sayings of Jesus. And that day I was blessed by my daily devotions… you see in Nicky Gumbel’s opening comments,  I found a great summary of what Luke is talking about in the passage we had read to us  Luke 12:1-12…
  “The message of Jesus is the most powerful message in the world. It is good news. It changes lives. It changes cities and cultures. Yet it is also a message that provokes opposition. God equips you to pass on this message by giving you the Holy Spirit”.
In this passage Jesus talks of being faithful in the light of persecution: he talks of overcoming that very human response of fear so we can walk the cross road following Jesus with courage and trust.
We are working our way through Jesus journey to Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel, a journey that takes up the central third of the gospel narrative (ch 10-19), a Journey narrative that focuses on Jesus teaching on what it means for us to follow him.  Today we are moving into a new block of teaching, over the past few weeks we’d seen that Jesus was heading more and more into conflict with the religious and political leaders of the day and in light of that he calls his disciples and us to be faithful. He focuses on two things that should encourage us; Seeing present trials and challenges in light of eternity, and a correct understanding of the nature of God. We can be faithful because of who God is and that God will bring his plans and proposes to fulfilment in Jesus Christ.
The passage opens with a temporal link ‘meanwhile’ we’ve moved on in the narrative to a new situation but it’s not a clean break with what has gone before.  We are told that there is a great crowd of many thousands, and while the crowd in the earlier part of Luke’s gospel are always seen as a benign presence, here we are told they were trampling on one another, it is a bit more threatening. Maybe it was a bit like the crowds for euro 2016, a mix of the ecstatic and eccentric Icelanders and their joyful synchronised clapping but also those elements of Russian and English fans spoiling for a fight. Because in the previous passage we’ve been told there are elements who think that Jesus is motivated by evil, others who are demanding that Jesus show them greater and greater signs, and that the Pharisees and scribes are there questioning and hoovering waiting for Jesus to slip up so they can pounce.  In Luke’s gospel when there is a crowd Jesus turns to his disciples and teaches them about true discipleship.  Jesus is aware that the pressure of the crowd can cause us to compromise our faith, either the pull of popularism, to simply keep on pleasing the crowd or the push of persecution to appease the crowd.   Both pressures have historically caused the church to compromise their faithfulness to Jesus and push and pull at our faith: The pull to conform to the standards and social norms of today and the push against our faith, at least to keep it to ourselves.
Jesus starts by calling his disciples to be on guard, not against the unruly crowd, but the unruly tendencies of their own heart; to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. Yeast was added to dough to make it rise but in Jewish thinking it was also a metaphor for sin that once it is entertained can infect the whole mixture or dough.  In the passage we looked at last week Jesus had used a play on words to challenge the Pharisees, he had said they had missed the love of God and others but loved the good seats in the synagogue and the respectful greetings in the market place. It all had to do with external appearance not what was at the heart. Here Jesus sums that up with the word hypocrisy. It was a mask an act they put on. Jesus calls us to be wholeheartedly committed to him, that we are to be people of integrity, our outward actions and reactions, how we live and how we love should be a reflection of what is at our heart, our external life should be a reflection of our internal life, regardless of who is watching.

Jesus finishes his warning about this with a series of three sayings about what happens in secret will be made known. It has a present real life application: eventually the mask will crack or we will drop the act and people will see what is really at our core, what we believe will become known, in times of great pressure to conform or persecution is definitely one of those times. It also has an eternal application as well. As we move through this passage there is a time when we will stand before God and what is in the heart will be made known. King David is an example of that in scripture. He is known as a man after God’s own heart, he has integrity, now sadly he blows it big time, he is not perfect, but even in that case when confronted with his sin he repents and turns back to God. We have his powerful prayer of confession in psalm 51. 
Jesus moves from the pull of popularism to the push of persecution. He tells his disciples, they are not to fear those who can kill the body, but rather fear him who can throw you in to hell. Ok relax Jesus isn’t getting into the old hellfire and brimstone preaching here and neither am I. firstly Jesus is a realist, he knows what is going to happen to his followers that they like he will face persecution and death. He tells him in verse 11 they will be bought before synagogues rulers and authorities, there is going to be pressure to deny Jesus. Church history is full of persecution and martyrs and Jesus is saying don’t fear that, even though they can and will kill you, rather fear God.
Of course fear can be understood in two ways, the first is the crippling fear of being afraid, scared, petrified, it’s the sort of fear that can cause us to turn away from trusting Jesus Christ can cause us to deny him.  The other fear is the idea of respect and honour. Jesus here is NOT saying we should be afraid of God because God’s got the bigger stick, rather our respect for and honour of God should enables us to be faithful to him, cause in the end he is the one who cares.
This is where our understanding of God’s character comes into play. Firstly in this passage it is the only place in Luke’s gospel where he addresses his disciples as my friends, I tell you my friends do not be afraid… He’s speaking out of love and compassion. But also telling them that God cares for them. God is not angry or vindictive, God cares. God cares for the sparrows, that in the market place are a dime a dozen, they are still sold to be eaten but he cares for them. When I worked at the chapel at Auckland University I used to sit outside and have my lunch, and sometime just sit out under the trees and pray, and the sparrows would come round for food or because they wanted to join in the prayers. At a glance they all looked the same but if you looked at them they were all unique and different, you had to look for it. God invests such creative energy into these sparrows uniqueness. He cares for us so much more. He knows our most intimate detail and need, he even knows how many hairs are on our head. Ok there is room for a joke here, but I’m not going to make it… and maybe some of us are just trying to make God’s job a bit easier…  we respect God because God cares for us.
There is a correlation between what we do in this life and what happens in eternity. Jesus goes on in typical Jewish though patterns to repeat what he has said in a negative way in a positive one. He says that if we acknowledge him before humanity, he will acknowledge us before the angels of God. There is reward for those who are faithful. If we reject Jesus in front of people, Jesus will do that before the heavens. 
Then we have this really tough saying of Jesus that those who speak words against the son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. I think it’s there to be reassuring, but I know many young people who have in youth group asked about this unforgiveable sin, worried they might inadvertently commit it.  The first thing I always tell them is if you are even worried about then that’s good proof you haven’t committed it.
Scripture and history show that those who have rejected and spoken against Jesus have been welcomed back and forgiven. Peter who denied Jesus three times is reconciled with Jesus after the resurrection. ‘Peter do you love me, peter do you love me, peter do you love me… He is commissioned to be an apostle and a shepherd of God’s people. Saul stood at the stoning of Stephen and held peoples coats, so they could throw stones, he persecuted the church and yet on the road to Damascus meets the risen Jesus and his life is transformed he becomes Paul the apostle to the gentiles and writer of much of our New Testament. I could go on, many of Jesus greatest advocates started out anti-Jesus. Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is an ongoing rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. Pharaoh in the Old Testament is a biblical example, when God shows him his power it says that pharaoh hardened his heart again and again, till finally it says that God hardened pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the people go. It is encouraging for us because even if we buckle under pressure we know that the God who cares about us will and does forgive and restore. One of the big pastoral issues for the early church when it faced persecution was how they treated those who had buckled under and when demanded of them sacrificed to the roman emperor as God. Richard wurmbrand was a Christian leader who was imprisoned for many years and tortured in communist Romania and he talks of having to deal with meeting fellow prisoners who had denied the faith or even informed on him and his colleges and then later fallen foul of the communist regime. Some continued to deny Christ, others repented and returned.  
Finally in the face of persecution, Jesus gives his disciples great hope, that the God who cares for them and who would pour out his holy spirit would be there with them and in situations of conflict and confrontation would give them the words to say. Now one commentator said quite rightly this is not a passage for teachers and preachers who don’t prepare well , rather it is when we find ourselves in situation where we are called on to defend our faith in Jesus Christ. I think the great example in scripture is Stephen in the book of acts whose response to the Sanhedrin, the religious court in Jerusalem is a wonder exposition of Israel’s history and how it all points to Jesus. It says that they could contend against him.  The God who cares is the God who gives us his Spirit to be with us and enable us especially in times when we need that help.

friends don’t be afraid…Don’t be afraid… Jesus calls us to walk the cross road with courage and trust… Yup it’s not an easy road, as Jesus says in john 16:33  ‘in this life there will be trouble…yes we will face pressure to assimilate to compromise the gospel.. yes we will face the pressure of opposition and persecution … 'But take heart… Jesus has overcome the world'… do not fear, God cares, Jesus Christ came and lived and died that you may be forgiven and have new and abundant life… the Holy Spirit dwells with and within you… to empower and to guide, to teach and to lead. He will guide you home and welcome you, ‘well done good and faithful servant.