The Path of Jesus – A Path of Martyrdom & Death?

Click here to listen to the podcast of this 20-minute sermon.

On his way to the cross, Jesus said that we must hate our life in this world, that like a grain of wheat we must die, and that we must follow him on his journey to the cross (John 12:20-26). This seems to set us up for a path of martyrdom and death, a dark and twisted path. This was a path that many Christians in the early church followed – we read, for example, Ignatius of Antioche pleading with the Church of Rome in about AD107 to not save him from being martyred, eulogising and glorifying the path of suffering and death as the path mapped out by Christ and as the only means of his salvation.

If ‘the path of Jesus’ is a path of martyrdom and death, and if we are called to walk in his footsteps, then we too must become martyrs. Over the centuries this path has been used, for example, to exhort women to remain submissive in abusive marriages – they have the opportunity to suffer as Christ did, they have been told by Christians, and to do so without a word as Christ did. Is this really the path of Christ? Is this really what it means to walk in his footsteps?

All this raises fundamental and, to be honest, rather scary questions about God’s salvation plan: Did Jesus come into the world in order to die? Was it God’s intention – God’s desire – that Jesus should die? Was it always God’s plan that Jesus would die? Could salvation be found nowhere but through Christ’s death? If the answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, then we indeed have a dark message of salvation. And Christian discipleship is itself a dark path.

But in this sermon I want to suggest a different way of thinking about God’s intentions and desires. A different way of thinking about the place of Jesus’ death in God’s masterplan for the salvation of the cosmos. You may not agree with my conclusions – feel free to disagree! But perhaps a new look at Christ’s path will be helpful for all of us. Perhaps this will give us new insights into God’s love for us and God’s investment in our salvation. And perhaps this will open up a Path of Jesus that is truer to God’s deepest intentions.

Instructed Eucharist – Lent 2013

Communion

Click here to listen to the audio recording of the whole service – it is an hour and a quarter, because I’ve included the WHOLE service!

Figuring out the Anglican communion service (known as the Holy Eucharist) can be quite a challenge, particularly for those of us who did not grow up Anglican. So many words in the prayer book, sit-stand-kneel-stand-kneel-sit and all the robes, chalices, bowing and crossing – it can leave you feeling quite overwhelmed and confused! Many of those who have been members of the Anglican church for many years have forgotten what everything means – we just do what we’ve always done, often without understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing. Many people who are not familiar with the sacramental tradition find it all far to elaborate and ritualistic – a real turn-off.

Because of this, our church decided to run an ‘instructed Eucharist’ – this is our second one. It is a regular Eucharist service (though a little trimmed down to keep it not too long) with commentary provided as we go along, to explain what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. The Anglican service offers some unique experiences of worship, different from most Protestant and charismatic churches. While it is not for everyone, it may still be interesting – even if you’re not Anglican. We are not a very ‘high’ Anglican church – just regular folk who love Jesus and who are members of a small Anglican community church.

Click here to download just the transcript (PDF) of the instruction. You are most welcome to use and adapt our transcript for your own church. My thanks to the various sources that I drew on to prepare this one.

Click here to watch a video extract of the setting up of the communion table and the prayers leading up to the Eucharist 

(Apologies for the poor visuals. The original video was quite shaky. YouTube has kindly removed the shake by keeping the picture steady but moving the frame around. It’s a little odd, but at least Father Aaron is not shaking anymore!)

Thanks to Lynda Smith for the photograph of an outdoor Eucharist at our parish, held in November 2012.

Which Way are You Going?

Repentance

Click here to listen to or download the audio recording of this message.

Often, in the busyness of life, we just go on. We walk the same way we walked yesterday. We go through the motions. We just do what needs to be done. We are not especially purposeful in how we live. We often don’t really think about the direction we are taking, and whether this path will lead us closer to or further away from God. This can be a dangerous way of living – like a zombie. And so the Apostle Paul says, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

So, God calls us to repent. Repentance does not mean to beat yourself up. Rather it is about turning away from sin and death and turning towards God and life. It is about choosing to live in a way that rejects darkness, and embraces the light. It about giving up the negative things in life and taking up the positive. It about turning our back on the devil and walking towards God. It is about salvation!

God stands always with open arms and says “Come! Come, all you who are thirsty; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Listen! Listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on you. Turn to God, for he will freely pardon” (from Isaiah 55:1-7). God gives second, third, fourth chances – he is infinitely patient. God does not coerce or force – God invites and waits.

We need to challenge ourselves with this question – which way are we going? Are you walking towards sin and death? Or are you walking towards God and life? Such an important question, particularly during Lent – Which way are you going?

In this audio message (click here) we unpack this idea of turning away from death and turning towards life.

In All Things, God Works

http://e-thor-carlson-fine-art.com/Fine-Art-Tapestry.html

Click here to listen to the audio recording of this message

In all things, God works. Even during the darkest times of our life, God continues to work God’s purposes out.

I’ve been through some pretty dark times in my life – a long history of depression, a survivor of sexual abuse, a month in a psychiatric hospital. Life can be tough! And when we or those we love are in the midst of suffering, we often wonder where God is in all this. We wonder how God can allow these bad things. And how God can make anything good come out of the bad.

In Romans 8:28, Paul assures us that in all things, God works for our good. But this verse, so thrown around, can feel like an assault, rather than a beacon of hope, when we are in the midst of suffering. When suffering is really bad, it is hard to imagine that God could in any way be involved. It becomes hard to remember that God loves us, passionately.

This recording is a re-presentation of the transcript of a sermon that I delivered five years ago. A friend of mine, who found this sermon meaningful back then, sent it to me recently, to preach my own sermon back at me, while I have been going through a difficult time. And I felt ministered to. She didn’t know this, but it was particularly meaningful because this month it has been 20 years since I was admitted to hospital for severe depression, an experience that is one of the touchstones of my life. And so, I present this message again, as a podcast, hoping that it may minister to you.

In all things, God works. Even during the darkest times of our life, God continues to work God’s purposes out.

Click here to access the written transcription of this sermon, as preached on 27 July 2008.

Participating with God

Dear Friends

Usually, my blogs are podcasts, and this will continue next week as usual. But today I wanted to post a brief reflection on our participation with God.

I do believe, with my whole heart, that God places a call upon each of us – sometimes this is a call to an explicitly Christian ministry, for example, a call to ordination or missionary work. But most often it is a call to be God’s person in the world, to use the gifts that we have been given to reveal God’s love to the people in our environment, to do our job in a way that reflects God’s values and priorities, to care for those in need, to live out our faith in authentic ways. It is a call to be Christ in the world.

For myself, after God called me into a relationship with him in 1984, I began to feel a sense of calling into ministry. I really can’t articulate what this call constitutes. I’m not one who has heard the Voice of God saying, “Adrian, I want you to do this.” Perhaps it was just a feeling. But it was a deep seated feeling, a strong conviction, an imperative, a persistent yearning, a burning in my belly, an annoying compulsion. There is something about this calling that I could not get away from. Nevertheless, I spent the first 20 years of my Christian life running away from this call. I was doing the Jonah! I genuinely did not feel equipped for ministry – my faith is far too frail and uncertain.

Then, back in 2004, through my participation in a version of the purpose driven church, I experienced a renewal of the call, so strong in fact that I HAD to do something about it. I approached a trusted spiritual advisor, and she affirmed the call and took it to our Church Council. Eventually, in August 2005 I preached my first sermon, on Romans 12:1 (you can access the text of this sermon, by clicking here). That first sermon was a confirmation of God’s call – as I stood at the lectern and broke open God’s Word, I knew, for absolute certain, that this is what I was put here for. It was only in acting upon God’s call that I really got confirmation of that call.

It has been a little over seven years, and I have been blessed, by God and the church, to have the opportunity to preach regularly – for the past couple of years it has been twice a month. I thank God for this privilege. God has opened up a space for me to do God’s work, for me to be used by God. This is something amazing about our God – God likes us to participate with him in his work in the world – God chooses to share the work with us. In the process of my participating with God, I have been blessed. And apparently others have been blessed through me. The knowledge that God’s Spirit touches others through my fragile offering of myself is awesome! It is in my brokenness and uncertainty, that God does what God does best – God loves his people.

For myself, the call that God has placed in me is not just an optional thing. Not something I can turn off. Not something that I can run away from. I cannot help but believe that since God gifts each of his children, and since God has a vision for each of his children, God must also have a call for each of his children. I believe firmly that God has a call for you. And if you are still reading this, then I want to prompt you to seek out that calling. To listen to God’s voice – typically, a still, small voice. To listen for God’s call – something in your bones, in your gut. Something burning, something that wants to grow, something that leads you towards God.  God does not just call some; God calls each one. God calls you!

There is a poem that has been very meaningful to me in my journey, which I wish to share with you this week. I’m not much into poetry (I hear some of you gasp! Sorry about that), but this one expresses most accurately what I experience in myself. It puts into words an experience that I am not able to articulate myself. I stumbled across is by accident, but really I think this is a gift from God. And maybe it is a gift for you too.

What is this seed that thou has planted in me
that I must bring to fruit
or pass my life in sterile waste?

What is this gift that thou hast given me
that I must in turn pass on
or it will destroy me?

What is it you are asking me to do
that I must do
or know my life defeated?

I ask, in Christ’s name
Amen.

–        Edward Tyler, 1978
Prayers in Celebration of the Turning Year.

Making Sense of God’s Will

https://i1.wp.com/blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/climate-change.jpg

Making Sense of God’s Will

Sometimes life happens to us – the storms of life! – leaving us reeling and questioning: Where is God in this? Why did God let this happen? Is this God’s will? If it is God’s will, must I just submit to it? And if it’s not God’s will, must I fight against it? What is God’s will anyway?!

These are things we all grapple with from time to time. In fact, it is something I am grappling with right now. There are no easy answers. And so this message is really a message to myself. You’ll be listening in on my own questioning. Hopefully, you’ll gain a new insight into God’s attitude towards you; God’s love for you.

This message draws on several verses, not just one passage:

Matthew 7:9-11
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 18:14
“So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”

John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Ephesians 1:9-10
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)

Psalm 23:4
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (AV)

Turning Water into Wine

Turning Water into Wine

The wedding in Cana of Galilee was the wedding of the decade, with fabulous catering! But John 2:11 explains that the point of the story is to reveal Christ’s glory so that we may have faith in him. This sermon unpacks these two related points:

  • We see that Christ is the one, full of love, who is concerned for the ordinary events of our lives and who desires to bless us with abundance;
  • And we see that when there are troubles in life, we can turn to Jesus and act in faith, even when we don’t understand or feel faith.

This is what it means to have faith in Jesus: to entrust ourselves to Jesus.

John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons (75-115 litres). Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Painting by Romaya Puchman