Saturday, June 23, 2012
Between Here and There
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2012
* The Call to be a Disciple
- Inversion of ‘Christian’ and ‘Disciple’ - Acts 11
- To be with him and to be sent by him - Mark 1
I. The Sower Sows: “Let us go to the other side.”
A. Christ brings us into what he’s been teaching us; Christian faith is not a download of information, its a personal, cultural, and cosmic transformation.
B. Christ brings us into what he’s come to do: deliver others.
* Mark 5:1-9: Land of the Gerasenes - Roman Legions, Roman food, Roman culture
- The disciple’s abandon: Ezekiel’s wading into the River of Life...finally, so deep one is simply carried along.
C. Christ sowed the seed of the word and went to sleep.
* Exactly as his parable had taught; he expected a harvest - getting to the other side. He didn’t say ‘Lets TRY to go to the other side...’, or ‘Lets go halfway and die...’
II. The Storm Rages
A. Between where we are right now and the place to which Jesus has called us, between here and there, the storm is waiting
* Storms on Galilee
* Fishermen and they knew things were bad
- But Israel had been through the sea before
- But Jonah had been in the deep as well
- But the world was under water - and under the Spirit, a far stronger wind - when God fashioned the order: Job 38; Genesis 1
Let us learn, in the first place, that Christ’s service does not exempt His servants from storms. Here were the twelve disciples in the path of duty. They were obediently following Jesus, wherever He went. They were daily attending on His ministry, and hearkening to His word. They were daily testifying to the world, that, whateverScribes and Pharisees might think, they believed on Jesus, loved Jesus, and were not ashamed to give up all for His sake. Yet here we see these men in trouble, tossed up and down by a tempest, and in danger of being drowned. Let us mark well this lesson. If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other men. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory at the end,—all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that. By affliction He teaches us many precious lessons, which without it we should never learn. By affliction He shows us our emptiness and weakness, draws us to the throne of grace, purifies our affections, weans us from the world, makes us long for heaven. In the resurrection morning we shall all say, "it is good for me that I was afflicted." We shall thank God for every storm.
JC Ryle on Mark 4
B. Between where we are right now and the place to which Jesus has called us, between here and there, the Savior is with us.
* Jesus looks for faith from his disciples
- Paul shows the way: Acts 27:25 - “Keep up your courage men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.”
III. The Savior Reigns
As he approached, the enemy sought to stop him...but the opposing winds and waves of darkness could neither delay nor deter the Son of God.
This is why I would rather be in the storm with Jesus than in the calm without him.
This service, right here, right now, is not where Jesus is taking you. This is where he is telling you “Lets go over there...” Will you go? He who calls you is with you, in every storm, and his power over creation, over darkness, over all opposition will only be witnessed by those willing to be with him where he is going. He is going to where we are least likely to be comfortable, to serve and help people who are very different from us, to places of tyranny to bring liberty, to lands of despair to bring hope.
Ready to go?
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 17, 2012
One of the great business interests of this city is venture capital - almost $165m was invested here in 2010. More recently, “while the rest of the country saw an 18% decline in venture capital investments and deal volume fell 9% over the same period last year, Austin saw a 47% increase in venture capital funding during the first quarter.
Austin venture backed businesses tallied up $250 million dollars in 32 financings in the first quarter,” reports the Austin Business Journal.
Creative people are looking for the resources needed to turn ideas into products and services, and people with resources are looking for creative people with great ideas with whom they can invest. Once the checks are deposited, however, the investors are eager to see some progress on the promise, and return on their capital. Sometimes the pressure to produce can be hard to live with, especially in a society that values speed as well as success. The truth is that great companies often take many, many years to build, and patience is required to see investments turn into solid long-term gains. Looking for fast returns may prove very disappointing.
Tempting as it may be, one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to take a quick success business approach to our souls. We are always looking for fast fixes to our wounded hearts, or special techniques to hurry along our growth in grace. Its an empty venture! Real growth is slow and - dare I say it? - even boring. Real growth towards an incredible harvest is taking place, but more often than not it happens out of sight, and is marked not by brilliant epiphanies but slow, monotonous action. That’s how the kingdom of God advances within us, in our homes, and in the world - and that’s the point of Jesus’ Parable we’ve just read.
* “Sunrise, Sunset...when did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small...?”
“Small” is exactly the way God does things. Small seeds that become magnificent oaks providing vistas to heaven and shade for others.
I. Harvest is the End
A. Maturity - from ‘ripen’: prepared, full, perfect.
* Not the same as age!
- “Bill, there’s more of us on the dresser than in the bed!”
B. Maturity - like Christ: Ephesians 4, and that means our lives are not only personally marked by grace but have become a source of life for others.
* Sara Miles in “Take This Bread”
* The miraculous harvest of the previous parable shapes the meaning of this one. It’s spectacular and overwhelmingly beneficial; this is the sheltering ministry of the Church and the Christian, a place of refuge even for those who are not her members.
II. Sowing and Tending is the Process
A. God’s Ordained Order: Genesis 8:22
* Psalm 126
- Tears for children; tears for churches; tears for the city; tears for ourselves
* The Ordinary Means of Grace: Word, Sacrament, Prayer
- Mary’s Treasure in her heart: Luke 2:19; Psalm 1 - hiding the word in our hearts makes us well watered trees with much fruit.
B. God’s Concern for Your Heart: Proverbs 4:23
* Why we need some spiritual roundup to kill stuff at the roots
* Seeds are Words - Heard and Spoken and Read and Entertained
- Will you delight in reaping tomorrow what you are sowing today?
- What have you sown today that will live beyond you and affect eternity?
III. God the Sower, God the Savior
Jesus is God’s ultimate seed sown in the soil of the world (John 12:24). He was planted in death and sprang up - he rose again - fruitful, the first of many sons, writes Paul. He and his love are advancing in a loveless world, reshaping souls and homes and cities and nations with hope wherever his harvest of light comes.
These are advance harvests; the ultimate one will come; we will all, as Paul writes, stand before the judgment seat of Christ and the fruit of our lives will be displayed. How ashamed some will be on that day! There is no need however for you to know anything but joy on that Harvest Day. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus raised from the Dead in the Garden on that first Easter ‘she supposed him to be the Gardener’, wrote John. She was right; Jesus is the Gardener of our souls and he can remove from us every seed of bitterness, anger, shame, guilt, and hate. Jesus, who made the entire cosmos and tends it so well, can handle your heart and bring it to harvest. Yield its soil to the seed of his love today.
Saturday, June 09, 2012
You’ll Get No Argument from Me - Living a Life of Repentance
Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 10, 2012
* One of the hardest things in the world to do is admit you’re wrong and then go in a new direction.
“Then Job answered...”; here are some words which signal a basic shift in all that’s gone before. Job now must answer rather than merely ask, and the One he must answer to is God (as must we all). After all of his questions and cries of distress, Job heard God speak to him ‘out of the whirlwind’ and it brought Job back to a place of faith and trust, to the right way of walking with God, to the place of repentance.
“I had heard of you...but now my eye sees you...I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes...” - Job 42:6
“Repentance” is a much-maligned and often misunderstood word, something that’s not unusual when it comes to God’s good gifts.
At its most basic level it means to turn around, to go in a new direction. It is a turning from and a turning to.
* Mary Magdalene in the Garden
Yet we often see repentance mocked by the world, and either discarded by Christians, personally and congregationally, or reduced to an emotional roller coaster by tub-thumping televangelists. The world thinks it has to do with bearded madmen announcing the apocalypse, and Christians tend to think that repentance is ‘something we do back at the beginning, no need for that now’, as though repentance is like the first stage of a rocket that can be jettisoned after serving its purpose, launching us into deep space. Others make it a revivalist honeymoon, spurring people to tears of sorrow over past misdeeds and demanding a re-dedication of one’s life to Christ, measuring the emotional outburst as a sign of ‘doneness’, like a good chef with a meat thermometer.
What are we to make of this gracious gift of repentance? Knowing that repentance is a gift is actually a pretty good place to start when it comes to understanding what the genuine article is. Paul calls it a gift in his second letter to Timothy, writing that repentance is something which God grants to people - though not to all. He writes in Romans that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. He tells the Corinthians that he rejoices in their repentance - and please note that Paul is writing to Christians, thanking God for their repentance in regard to their collective and personal failures as a community. Knowing that it is not a one-time event but rather a description of the whole of our life here is thus of critical importance. It’s not simply a question of whether or not I have repented, but whether or not I am repentant.
I. Repentance is First - Job 42:1-6
* Over and over again, the Bible tells us to repent and believe; there is not real faith where there is no true repentance, for both gifts arrive together
A. Seeing God and Seeing Self
* Luke 5:8
B. Seeing God and Seeing Mercy
* "...fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement; he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor - that is the only way out of our 'hole'. This process of surrender - this movement full speed astern - is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years.”
- CS Lewis
II. Repentance is Foundational - Job 42:1-6
* Always present even when unseen!
A. Job, Man of God, Beginning to End.
* Regeneration is an act of God done in our hearts once and for all; repentance is an act we do from our hearts every day!
- “The Bible says, "He that believeth shall be saved," and when it says that, it includes the very smallest degree of faith. So when it says, "Repent and be saved," it includes the man who has the lowest degree of real repentance. Repentance, moreover, is never perfect in any man in this mortal state. We never get perfect faith so as to be entirely free from doubting; and we never get repentance which is free from some hardness of heart. The most sincere penitent that you know will feel himself to be partially impenitent. Repentance is also a continual life-long act. It will grow continually. I believe a Christian on his death-bed will more bitterly repent than ever he did before. It is a thing to be done all your life long. Sinning and repenting—sinning and repenting, make up a Christian's life. Repenting and believing in Jesus—repenting and believing in Jesus, make up the consummation of his happiness. You must not expect that you will be perfect in "repentance" before you are saved. No Christian can be perfect. "Repentance" is a grace.” - Charles Spurgeon
B. Job, Repentance, and Pride
* Humble - comes from a root word that means ‘down to the ground.’
- Repentance looks like humility just as a lack of this grace feeds our self-seeking, self-worshipping, self-promoting arrogance.
- It stops arguing and simply quotes God’s word back to him! No more, “Now listen to me God!”, but rather -
1. You are Sovereign - Job 42:2
2. You have Spoken - Job 42:3,4
* How do we act when someone says “You’ve blown it man!” Do we get all puffed up or do we think for a second, ‘You know, given who I am he might be right!’
III. Repentance is Fruitful - Job 42:7-17
A. Renewed Prayer - 42:7-9
* Rooted in Mercy
B. Restored Communion - 42:10-11
* “Then came to him...”
- there is a movement towards us that God creates when after we have moved towards him in repentance.
- back to the table
Job died ‘full of days’, which doesn’t simply mean that he lived a long time but that his days were marked by fullness - fullness in family, in service, in joy. This is one way God shapes a repentant life and people. This is also why repentance is such a precious gift, for in its tears are the seeds of joyful fullness. As the Psalmist sings, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126).
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Having just preached on Job and Creation I was glad to see the following post over at Musings on Science. The inclusion of Wisdom Literature in the discussion on creation and origins is essential.