Values: 6. Prayerful

Romans 8:26-27   Philippians 4:6-7

May God grant us the grace we need to hear His word and the faith we need to respond . Amen

Over the last few weeks we have been thinking and talking about the values that shape and form our understanding of what it means to be a church that:

Knows God, Father Son and Holy Spirit and worships Him in Spirit and truth

A church that Grows in faith and discipleship through prayer, study and trust so we can

Show God’s love by serving our community and sharing the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

This is our vision

You can find a sheet stating our vision and values in the carousel at the back of the church.

Today is about prayer. Are we a prayerful church?

            One Sunday the following obituary reading was distributed at the First Neglected Church. This is how it read:

Mrs Prayer Meeting died recently at the First Neglected Church on Worldly Avenue.  Born many years ago in the midst of great revivals, she was one of the most influential members of the church family.  For the past several years Mrs. Prayer Meeting has been failing in health.  At the last she was but a shadow of her former self.  Her last whispered words were inquiries concerning the absence of her loved ones, now busy in the markets of trade and places of worldly amusements.

 Experts, including Dr. Works, Dr. Reform, and Dr. Joiner, disagreed as to the cause of her fatal illness.  They had administered large doses of organizations and socials, but to no avail.  A postmortem showed that a deficiency of spiritual food, coupled with the lack of faith and general support, were contributing causes.  Only a few were present at her death. In honor of her going, the church door will be closed on Wednesday nights. 

Unfortunately, that obituary could be read in many churches and over many Christians. 

         But it is to be hoped that it never applies to us here in All Saints..

.  God has done everything possible to incite us to pray, to excite us to pray, and to invite us to pray. But strangely enough, we often do anything but pray. In our reading from Philippians we are told “Do not worry about anything but in everything by prayer and supplications, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”

  Now I find in this verse a comprehensive theology of the most powerful force in the universe, the power of prayer..The theology of kneeology. If we hope to see God move us in awesome power, we are going to have to get on our hypothetical knees. 

 The Christian life is won or lost in the consistent, faithful, practice of the basics of our faith, prayer, worship, bible study, Then we can be courageous in dreaming big dreams taking risks and seeing where God is at work

So I want to talk to you about talking to God. Because when the church prays, God gets involved!

I think there are five keys to an effective prayer life.

1st:      SANCTIFIED PRAYER

 Sanctified prayer has to do with one’s position.  Do you understand what position God expects from you before He will hear your prayer?  I’m not talking about body position.  You don’t have to be down on your knees for God to hear your prayers.       Sanctified prayer is prayer that may be uttered through the lips but comes from the heart.  In Hebrews 10 it says “And since we have a great High Priest over the house of God, let us approach, with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” 

2nd:  STEADFAST PRAYER

Steadfast prayer relates to persistence and perseverance in prayer.  Too often we give up or become discouraged when God doesn’t answer our prayer the way we think He should or as quickly as we want Him to.I learned a long time ago that God answers all prayer but in a variety of ways

He sometimes directly answers our prayers. Or He may delay answering our prayers for some time. Because God is sovereign He occasionally answers our prayers differently to how we are expecting. .And He sometimes denies our prayers so we don’t always get what we think we want   God will answer our prayers if we pray steadfastly. 

3rd:       SPECIFIC, UNITED PRAYER

How we pray is important and with whom we pray is just as important. God sometimes wants us to pray specifically and in unison with our brothers and sisters. Corporate prayer is part of our worship. All  our hearts joined in praying for the same thing is very powerful. 

4th:      SENSITIVE PRAYER SPIRIT-FILLED PRAYER

Effective prayer is prayer that is sensitive to God. Did you realise that prayer is a two-way street?  When you pray, God listens. But often, God talks back!

We need to learn to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us during prayer.  We need to be still and silent and seek to know what we are being led to pray about        

5th:      SURRENDERED PRAYER

This key pertains to the believer’s willingness to submit to the Lord’s will in prayer.  Now many Christians believe today that whatever we pray for God is somehow obligated to do it.  They say as long as we pray in Jesus’ name, and have enough faith that God must answer.  What these well meaning believers often forget is the need to surrender to God’s will.  We must learn to pray according to the will of the Father. Even Jesus didn’t have every prayer He prayed answered by the Father!  He prayed that the Father might take away the cup of His suffering, His shame and His sacrifice.. But then He prayed, “not my will but yours be done.”

If only we all can learn to pray with such a surrendered heart!  I don’t know about you, but I’m glad God doesn’t always give me everything I ask for.

It was Shakespeare who so wisely wrote:

                          We, ignorant of ourselves,

                            Beg often our own harms,

                          Which the wise powers

                            Deny us for our good;

                          So find we profit

                            By losing of our prayers.

         A minister once stood up and gave this testimony in a conference.  He said, “I prayed for fifteen years, as a young man, for God to give me a big church and a pretty wife.”  He continued, “He almost answered my prayer.  He gave me a big wife and a pretty church.”

God hears our prayers whether we pray together in church or alone. Whether our prayers are longer considered, and for specific needs, or arrow type prayers for an immediate situation.

God is calling us to pray. God is calling us to pray steadfastly. God is calling us to pray because then “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”

Let us pray

Dear Lord, help me – every day – to find faith in the midst of the chaos. Give me the desire and ability to see You, hear You, talk to You, and give thanks to You. And as I do, I pray that I will draw nearer and nearer to You, and that my faith will grow as I understand in new, deeper ways that You are everything I ever hoped You would be.. And so much more. Amen.

       

Values: 5. Biblical

Biblical (2 Timothy 3: 14-17 and Psalm 119)

Today we’re exploring our next value:  In all that we are and do, we will seek to follow God’s ways, understanding and keeping the truths of Scripture interpreted and taught by the church down the centuries. (2 Timothy 3: 14-17 and Psalm 119)

Let’s pray together:

Almighty God,

Through the written word,

and the spoken word,

may we know your Living Word

Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen

In recent years several polls have rated the nations favourite 100 books.  Books such as Pride and Prejudice, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird always feature in the top 10…. But top of the list each time – considered the most influential book ever written is the Bible. 

The Bible is the most popular book in the world.  The most successful literary creation of all time. 

Did you know that each year over 100,000,000 Bibles are sold or given away? 

And today there are many different Bible apps available too, the leading Bible App has been downloaded 300 million times!

The Bible is the most popular book of all time, and many would say it is also the most powerful.  It has the power to change individuals and to change societies. 

On her coronation, our Queen was given a Bible with these words ‘we present to you this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.’ 

The Bible is incredibly precious, the writer of the Psalms says the Bible is more precious than gold.  And over the years many, many have given their lives to make sure that the Bible is shared with others. Often risking life and limb to make sure that the Bible is shared in hard and difficult places.

The Bible is of course a collection of books by over 40 authors over 1600 years.  Each bit of it was/is inspired by God.  We heard in our reading the Apostle Paul’s words –  that all of scripture is inspired by God…  Now the word Paul uses for ‘inspired’ in the original Greek carries with it the idea that each word written down is God-breathed.  God’s breathe is in it all.

Nicky Gumbel  – an Anglican priest and developer of the Alpha Course says this: 

‘The Bible is the inspired word of God – because it claims to be, seems to be and proves to be.’   The Alpha course has a session which considers the importance of the Bible, and here Nicky shares his experience that as he has read God’s word and studied it, time and time again it has spoken truth to his life.  And as he has learnt to live it out and put it into practice – he has sensed God speaking to him through it.   And so, Nicky’s encourages us all, to read God’s word, to try it out, to give it a go – for then we’ll see God at work in our lives in the most amazing ways. 

Many, many thousands would testify similarly:  Rick Warren – an American pastor says this:

“Reading the Bible generates life.  It produces change.  It heals hurt.  It builds character.  It transforms circumstances.  It imparts joy.  It overcomes adversity. It defeats temptation.  It infuses hope.  It releases power.  It cleanses the mind.”

So, the Bible was written by over 40 authors – doctors, fisherman, kings, scholars, philosophers, statesmen, prophets, lawyers, historians, teachers… and they wrote different types of literature… history, poetry, prophecy, letters – so the Bible is 100% the work of human hands… but it is also 100% inspired by God.

St Paul’s Cathedral in London was built by Sir Christopher Wren – a great architect of his time – construction began in 1675 and continued for 36 years under his direction until it was finished in 1711.  Now we talk of Christopher Wren building the cathedral and yet he didn’t dig a single hole or lay a single stone, rather it was built by a number of stonemasons, carpenters, labourers and artists. 

You see Christopher Wren was the inspiration, the cornerstone of it all, without his idea, design and direction it would never have been built.

And so, it is with the Bible – yes there are many writers/authors but the inspiration, the architect is God.

Now in places there are some apparent difficulties with the Bible.  On the surface it can look like there are several contradictions.  The Apostle Peter, Paul and James all seem to say slightly different things, they have different understandings of events and ideas.  In places it looks like there are moral or historical contradictions – and if you’ve read much of the Old Testament there are some difficult themes to deal with, some shocking events and it can be hard to see how they are inspired by God.

Well some of the apparent contradictions can be overcome by understanding the type of literature you’re reading and the context to which it applies. 

Crucial to it all is recognising that Jesus is the interpretive key to it all.  You see Jesus is love, he is the supreme revelation of God…if we want to know what God is like – we can look at Jesus.  The more that we trust that the Bible is the word of God – the more we begin to understand and unpack.

The Bible is the primary way in which God communicates with us.  It is the way he reveals himself to us.

Now God has also revealed himself through creation.  Everywhere we look – the beauty of creation, the stunning scenes that we see, the vastness and glory, we say wow, there’s got to be a God.  Or you can look at the stars late at night – the huge expanse, and think wow, there must be a God…someone who created all of this, and the very fact that we are here, the fine tuning of the universe, surely only God could have done that.  The fact we’re created with a longing for something more, something deeper and spiritual  – so yes God has revealed himself in nature- in creation. 

But supremely he has revealed himself in a person – Jesus.  And of course, the main way we know about Jesus is through the Bible, through the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the rest of the New Testament… but also the Old Testament – which when seen through the right lens – is also about Jesus… pointing to him.

And retuning to Jesus – he himself believed in, trusted in, and quoted the Old Testament – for him it was the word of God – it was to be respected and treasured.

The Bible is God’s inspired word – this has been believed by the church through the ages and is believed today by Christians all around the world.  It is central to the Church of England. 

The Bible is understood to be authoritative – and is full of wisdom – practical wisdom about how to live and make good decisions.  St Paul says the Bible is useful to teach us what is true, and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

The Bible is full of practical help and wisdom, and principles for relationships – how to love and forgive others, advice on healthy living, working with others, bringing up children and that sort of thing. 

It gives us boundaries and guidelines to help us get the most out of life.  Not a rule book, but rather a way of living that encourages freedom, wholeness, safety, growth and fullness of life. 

These boundaries are set in God’s overwhelming, irresistible, generous love to us… with a desire to see us thrive and not get hurt.

So, God has spoken through the Bible – and he continues to speak through the Bible…

The Bible has been described as a love letter from God…  it is a communication from the person we love and choose to believe in. 

It is exciting to study it…not that we gain facts and head knowledge, but rather we discover more about the person of Jesus Christ and more about God.  The purpose of the Bible is to bring us into relationship with God…  and it is this relationship that really counts.

And that is at the heart of the Christian faith.   God loves us, he longs to be in relationship with each of us, he longs to communicate with us, he longs to speak to us… and so the best way to invest in this relationship is to read God’s word, to study it… to allow God to speak words of life into our hearts and minds.

Above all the Bible gives us truth, hope and joy.  The Bible gives us a certain hope, that this crazy world we live in today, is not all that life is about… but that one day, the heavens and earth will be restored and renewed when Christ returns.  Billy Graham said this:  “I’ve read the last page of the Bible, it’s all going to turn out alright.”. 

For all these reasons, the Bible is important to us…it is crucial to us…

It is God’s inspired word, it is popular, powerful and precious – it carries authority and provides wisdom on how to live, it is God’s word to us today… his love letter to each of us, revealing his character and his heart of love. 

The Anglican church to which we belong has always accepted the Bible as truth and therefore it is our value – that in all that we are and do, we will seek to follow God’s ways, understanding and keeping the truths of Scripture interpreted and taught by the church down the centuries.

And so today can I encourage you to read and study God’s word at home each day, to get stuck into it either on your own or perhaps with a friend, or spouse or with your children. 

Two of the best ways you can do that is either to use a daily set of bible notes… or a Bible App. 

There are all sorts of Bible reading notes available from Scripture Union or Word Alive, CWR or the Bible Reading Fellowship. You can search for them online, there are many different resources, however I would really recommend these they’re called New Daylight by the BRF.  Each day you’re given a small passage of scripture to read, and then there are notes to help explain, with questions and a short prayer.  If you would like to find out more, please speak to John Byrne – and if you want to he can place an order for you for 2019.  They work out at about £12 for the year. 

Or if you’d prefer something you can use on your phone or tablet there are a range of Bible Apps.  I would recommend the Bible App (YouVersion) or the Bible in One Year (HTB), or Daily Reflections (CofE)….  You can download them through your Google Play store or IWith each of these Apps you can read the scripture yourself, or have it read to you…again there is commentary with it, links to other passages, questions, reflections, and prayers and you can share passages or ideas with others.  An App for a phone or tablet is a great way of taking God’s word with you everywhere and being able to access it while on a train, or sat in a coffee shop.

And if you would like recommendations for some really good notes or Apps for children and young people please speak to myself or John.

I’m going to close with a quote I used earlier from Rick Warren. 

Because like Rick it is my experience, it is my belief that God’s word, the Bible brings change and transformation to heart and minds and is full of truth and life.  It is worth following, it is worth trusting.

“Reading the Bible generates life.  It produces change.  It heals hurt. 

It builds character.  It transforms circumstances.  It imparts joy.

It overcomes adversity. It defeats temptation. 

It infuses hope.  It releases power.  It cleanses the mind.”

Amen.

Values: 4. Generous

Vision and Values

Generous (2 Corinthians 9: 5-7 and Luke 6: 27-38)

During this Autumn Term we’ve been thinking about our Vision and Values here at All Saints. 

Our Vision is to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead.

So far, we’ve looked at several of our values

  • to be a loving people – loving God and loving each other,
  • to be a missional people – those who share the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit–
  • and to be a welcoming community in which every person is important and valued…

If you’ve missed these sermons do check out them out from the links on this page

   Or you can pick them up from the carousel by the door at the back.

So, today on this Harvest Sunday – a day when we recognise with grateful, thankful hearts God’s goodness and generosity to us in creation – his amazing, profound love and generosity in sending Jesus as our Saviour and rescuer –  we turn our thoughts to think about our own generosity towards others. 

Let’s pray together:

Father God, as we look at your Word now, may our hearts and minds be open ready to hear you speaking to us, that we might become more like you son Jesus.  In his name we pray, Amen.

———————————————————————————

In all that we are and do, we will seek to be a blessing to others, generous with our time and resources.

So, what do we mean by generous? 

Well first, generosity is about a readiness, a willingness, to give more of something…

be it time, or talents or resources. 

Generosity isn’t just about giving a little,

rather it’s about giving far more than is strictly necessary or expected.

When I think about generosity I think of words like lavish, plentiful, copious, ample, bountiful, huge, abundant, profuse, overflowing, and inexhaustible.

Both our passages today focus on generosity from two different angles:

  1. Our reading from Luke shares Jesus’ words and helps us to think through what it might mean for us to have generous, lavish, abundant lives… 

lives in which our character, our attitudes, our actions might reflect a generous and loving God. 

  1. The other passage from Paul written to the Corinthians relates to our resources – encouraging us to be people who abundantly give and share our time and money.

So first let’s think a bit further about the passage we heard from Luke.

The verses we heard are taken from what’s known as the Blessings and Woes.  Here we have Jesus speaking with his disciples.  Jesus begins by telling his disciples that they are to love their enemies. 

Now Jesus’ doesn’t mince his words…the original Greek words which Jesus uses reflect a hateful enemy or foe, who had a particularly malicious attitude bent on persecution.  They offer harmful curses and seek to threaten, mistreat and abuse others.  These are not nice people! 

And Jesus doesn’t just say to his disciples well force a smile and then mind your own business, rather he advises them to actively try to do good towards their attackers. 

He encourages them to love their enemies, to speak well of them and to pray for, intercede for them. 

And none are in the passive voice.  They don’t just take care of themselves, rather they are active verbs describing a deliberate action of doing good towards one’s enemies. 

This kind of love is hard work, deliberate and above all it is generous and abundant.  It’s about giving and sharing love with those who don’t deserve it…

it’s about going above and beyond the expected to share goodness and blessing.

Jesus then continues with his teaching making use of hyperbole.  (hi perr bo ley)

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to make a point…

I wonder how many times you’ve heard someone say…

I’ve done that a million times,

or I nearly died laughing,

or I was hopping mad. 

You get the idea. 

We are constantly finding means of expression to make a point. We allow “poetic license” to create word pictures that aren’t literally true, but that make a point in an especially poignant way. We’re a people of exaggeration in speech.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about stretching the truth here.

I’m talking about using exaggerations to make a point.

Jesus used exaggerations to make a point, too.

This was a common way of speaking in his day.

So, in verse 29 we read, “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (6:29)

“Turning the other cheek” has made it into the English language as an expression meaning to go out of your way to avoid a nasty confrontation. Even though provoked, instead of lashing out, you turn the other cheek. In fact, I think that’s pretty close to what this sentence means in Jesus’ teaching. Remember, the context is enemies, those who insult us and seek to embarrass us.

Jesus’ point is that we are to avoid hitting back, striking back, having the last word, wounding, the natural human reaction.

Though Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek is intended in the arena with a sworn enemy, the principle applies to every area of our lives.

Don’t retaliate. Don’t hit back. Don’t move from a position of prayerful love for your enemy to a drop-down, drag-out fight.

Love doesn’t retaliate. Be generous.

The second command is harder yet to understand. “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (6:29b).

But the principle is the same.

When your enemy takes your cloak, remember that you love him or her.

You are praying for them. You are blessing them and seeking their good.

Don’t get grabby and nasty and accusing.

You love them, remember? Let them have your tunic also.

You see Jesus is seeking to train disciples to think and act and love like he does.

Turning the other cheek is indeed what he did as the soldiers spat on him and flogged him and forced a thorny crown into his scalp and mocked him as king.

Was he tempted to retaliate? Oh, yes! But he didn’t. Why? He loved them.

That is the radical lesson – we are to be those who are generous, abundant, prolific in our loving.

Jesus then gives several examples to illustrate the difference between a selfish, prudent way of dealing, and his own radical love — looking out for the other person’s best interests.

Even “sinners,” unbelievers, shrewd but relatively moral people, care about their friends. It’s good business. “What goes around, comes around,” so let’s all be nice.

But that isn’t Jesus’ point.

Jesus tells us to show kindness, especially when we won’t be beneficiaries of it later.

Unselfish, serving love — agape love — is what he is illustrating here.

Self-love seeks repayment — the sooner the better.

Agape love seeks no repayment. 

This is ultimate generosity.

Jesus reminds his disciples to be merciful…. Not when it is useful. Not when it is convenient. Not when the recipient is worthy.

Mercy is never justified. It is given freely.

This sort of mercy is costly… it may result in insults and slander…some blows to the cheek and stolen coats

but to learn this is to learn the essence of the gospel –

unmerited, costly forgiveness,

a lavish and abundant and generous love that knows no bounds or limits. 

Jesus finishes with these words – “do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you… a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

This is the climax of all that Jesus has been teaching his disciples…

they are to live lives that aren’t centred in judging and condemning, blaming, fault-finding, always being critical. 

Rather they are to be those who will forgive, who will be gracious, merciful, generous and tender-hearted people. 

Jesus talks about the degree of generosity be discussing measures…

and basically, Jesus is saying what you give out, you’ll get back…

Don’t get me wrong. I am not teaching that good Christians are wealthy, and that poverty is proof that we don’t have faith.

What I am saying is that somehow spiritually, there is a link, when we learn to give generously to God we open-up a new area of blessing for ourselves. 

Each of these commands shared with his disciples apply to us today… as those who are seeking to follow after Jesus and become more like him each day. 

These commands give us a framework for living lives that are generous in attitude and action. 

These commands encourage us to be lavish, abundant, plentiful Christians – those who will give above and beyond what is necessary or required. 

To be those who are inexhaustibly generous. 

This is the heart of the Christian faith…  that we would live generously as disciples in this world… at home, at school, in our communities and homes…

that we might be a blessing to others.

Very quickly now I just want to look at our other reading.

This passage was written by Paul to Christians in living in Corinth – urging them to be generous. 

This time the focus isn’t on inner living…

but rather on the practical outpouring of finances,

the giving of money and resources to support and aid the furtherance of God’s kingdom. 

Paul had made an arrangement with the Christians in Corinth to give a financial gift to the needy Christians in Jerusalem. 

And although we do not know the exact size or nature of this gift…

there are two points, two principles that Paul shares

and apply to us today as we consider the financial gifts, the resources we give to others…

The first is whoever sows sparingly, will reap sparingly.  Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

Paul uses a farming concept to illustrate a spiritual truth.

If you put only a few seeds in the ground, you will not have much crop. Sowing sparingly is to withhold giving and to lack generosity. Sowing bountifully is to be generous and giving.

We see this point expressed in verse 7. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion…” This is also the same principle that is taught by God found in Proverbs.

One gives freely yet grows all the richer; another withholds what they should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will themselves be watered. (Proverbs 11:24–25 ESV)

It is a counter-intuitive principle.

We think that the more generosity we show the less we will have.

We think that the more we hold tightly to money and are stingy, then the more money we will retain.

But Paul teaches that it does not work like that.

The second point, the second principle Paul makes is that God loves a cheerful giver.

We should stop and reflect when God says there is a certain characteristic that he loves.

God loves a person who gives cheerfully.

God loves the person who wants to give and does so.

We shouldn’t need to be commanded to be generous.

We want to be generous because that is the kind of heart God loves.

Paul is saying that we are on the wrong side of the scale with God if we sow sparingly and lack generosity.

Further, giving reluctantly or under compulsion is sowing sparingly.

God wants generosity. God loves generosity. God is generosity.

And that is the overriding principle, the overriding truth behind all of what we’ve considered. 

  • Our God is the most amazing, generous God…  He created the most amazing world. He provided for us in creation and sustains it, and we give thanks for it today. 
  • Our God is the most amazing, generous God, who loves us, cares for us and gave his life for us that we might know freedom, healing and relationship.    
  • Our God is the most amazing, generous God, who invites us, encourages us to draw near to him and as we experience his love to be generous in our lifestyles, generous in our actions, generous in attitudes and generous in giving and sharing our resources, our money, our time with those around us. 

In all that we are and do, we will seek to be a blessing to others, generous with our time and resources.

Let’s pray –

Father God – we ask very simply that this would be true for each of us, that as your people in this community we might be generous, that in all we do and say we may be a blessing to others.  Amen

Values: 3. Welcoming

Vision and Values – Welcoming (Romans 12: 9-18)

This value of ‘welcoming’ was presented at our All Age Service in several parts – rather than one talk. 

It involved lots of discussion and group work. These are basic notes rather than a full sermon!

Our vision here at All Saints is to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead.  People who KNOW God, GROW in his love, and then SHOW that love to others.

And one of the things that is important to us is we want to be a church We want to be a place, a church where everyone is welcomed, everyone is important, and everyone feels at home with us. 

Romans 12: 9-18

Paul often writes in long rambling sentences but here he gives us bullet points, each of which is simple, precise and direct and can stand alone / grab attention / require more detailed focus. They take about 90 seconds to read, and a whole lifetime to try to put into practice. I’d like to consider further just three of these: 

  1. Loving one another (vv 9 and 10) – We love, because he first loved us. Words of Jesus: “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And “Love the Lord your God …. Love your neighbour as yourself.”

People can sense when there is real love within a community. Many people have learned how to pretend to love others, to say kind things, to avoid hurting their feelings, to appear to take an interest in them, to express compassion when learning of others’ needs or indignation when learning of injustice but God calls us to show genuine and sincere love, not simply politeness.

How can we bring more genuine love into our lives?

Prayer – ask for the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, to be more Christlike, and to be open to its prompting. A sincere, humble, unhypocritical, unconditional, unlimited, all-encompassing, heartfelt, devoted, fervent, relentless, practical, engaging, generous, caring and compassionate love – difficult to achieve but important to keep trying.

Focus on others and not on ourselves.

Genuine love is not just being nice to people; when we show love to someone we make a difference and we move them towards a greater experience of God’s goodness.

  1. Take care of needy people regardless of their status, social position, religion, politics, gender, race, etc. Welcome strangers into your home (v 13). Note – not only practise but pursue hospitality (translation: love of stranger).

What might hospitality look like for you? Especially if your situation makes traditional forms of hospitality difficult to do; how might that be adapted? – breakfast muffins, mid-morning coffee, a salad at lunchtime, offer to babysit or to take their children on an outing; when baking or cooking, prepare some extra food and take it to someone living on their own. Look out for neighbours or people at church who just need company and time for a chat.

Christian hospitality differs from social entertaining.

Entertaining focuses on the well-dressed, relaxed, in-control host, the spotless, comfortable home, the well-prepared, perfectly-timed, abundant, attractive food and drink, the stimulating conversation pieces.

Hospitality focuses on the guests and their needs, whether it is a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear or simply companionship. Hospitality can happen in a messy, noisy home, around a kitchen table where the main course is canned soup; it can happen while the host and guest are spending time together doing a few chores; it can be fitted in between awkward working shift patterns.

Don’t hesitate to offer hospitality just because you are too tired, too busy, too anxious, too self-conscious or not wealthy enough to entertain. Real life often doesn’t fit the vision of hospitality we may have in our minds; so go ahead anyway, have courage, reach out and you’ll be surprized how rewarding it can be.

CHALLENGE – invite someone round for a meal – someone from church whom you don’t know very well and get to know them. 

  1. Paul really stresses that we’re to treat everyone the same… to be friendly to everyone….to not think ourselves smarter than others, but to make friends with everyone…

It reminded me of an example James gives us in his letter….

Just imagine your sat here in church one week, when in walks the most amazing person,  they’re wearing glamourous expensive clothes, they have a big fat gold ring on their hand, stylish shoes, and they look stunning…wow!

Then in comes another person, and they’re wearing dirty, old, smelly clothes… yuk!

What would you do – how might you react to these two people?

Well, James warns us not to treat them differently…it would be wrong to give the best seat and the front to the one in the fancy clothes and tell the poor person to sit or stand at the back. 

That would be showing favouritism or partiality – and it is wrong – we must treat everyone equally and fairly.

James is making the same point as Paul – we’re not to have favourites  – or think that we’re better than others… rather we to love and treat others as we would want to be treated. 

Conclusion

So three very important points….love one another, care for one another and show hospitality to those in need, and remember no favourites!

Our aim – our goal is always to give the best welcome we can – to each other and to those we meet throughout our week at school, at college, at work, in the street, our neighbours and our friends.

Jesus is our prime example –  he welcomed everyone – he ate meals/shared food with people and treated everyone equally.  Our aim, our desire is to be more like Jesus. 

And so, shall we finish with a simple prayer:

Father God – help us to be more like Jesus –

that in all that we are and do, we will welcome everyone.  That every person in our community might know that they matter and feel at home with us.  Amen

Values: 2. Missional

Vision and Values at All Saints

Missional (John 3: 16-21 and Matthew 5: 13-16)

We’ve just begun a new series thinking about our Vision and Values here at All Saints. 

Our Vision is to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead.

The first value we identified was Love – we want to be a loving community – that as God’s people we want to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

And following right behind this value, in fact almost inextricably linked to loving, was a deep desire to be a missional people. 

In all that we are, and all that we do, in every area of life, individually and collectively, we will reach out to others with the love of God.

To be a people whose heart’s desire is outward… not focussed on us… but longs to share God’s love with others.

Our thinking was influenced by two passages – both of which we heard earlier. 

Our passage from John’s gospel begins with perhaps one of the best-known passages of scripture.  Jesus says

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish – but have eternal life” 

No other verse in the Bible so succinctly summarizes God’s relationship with humanity and the way of salvation.

Some consider John 3:16 as the “theme verse” for the entire Bible. John 3:16 tells us of the love God has for us and the extent of that love—so great that He sacrificed His only Son on our behalf.

John 3:16 teaches us that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will be saved.

This verse gives us the glorious hope of eternal life through the love of God and death of Jesus Christ.

This love, God’s love… for each and every person is beyond compare… it is deep, it is real, it is amazing…. The very best,

And it is this love – the good news of Jesus that we are called to share with others. 

In fact, it is our calling….  Jesus made that calling clear in his sermon on the mount.

As Jesus spoke to all his would-be followers Jesus said you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. 

Jesus was calling his early disciples, those who wanted to follow after him to be different, to be distinctive…to make a difference, to be salt, to be light in the darkness. 

And that calling remains true for us today…

We are called to be salt, to be light, to be distinctive, to be different…

to reach out to others with the love of God.

Our calling, to share God’s love impacts every of life, both as individuals and as a community of faith in this place. 


Now one of the ways we can do this collectively is to work in partnership with charities and mission organisations to share God’s love with those in need.

In recent years All Saints has supported many, many different missionary groups and charities… sending them money each year – about 7% of our income, and occasionally exchanging news. 

Now this was, and has been good, but it was rather hard to remember who we were working with… and to form any meaningful relationships/partnerships in which news and prayers requests were exchanged… as there were in a sense too many.

And so, the Mission team have made the decision to work in much closer partnership with 5 main groups, in the hope that with time, we will develop and form stronger and deeper partnerships – partnerships which aren’t just about us sending financial support (all though we will of course continue to do this) but partnerships in which news is exchanged, prayers are shared, friendships formed, projects and initiatives are supported, the voice of the marginalised championed and as a result God’s love is shared in very real practical ways.

So I’m just going to introduce us to each mission partner…

The Children’s Society

The Children’s Society are a national charity that works with the country’s most vulnerable children and young people. They seek to listen, support and act – because no child should feel alone.

Last year they worked with over 11,000 vulnerable children and young people, while their policy changes will improve the lives of more than half a million children.

Already at All Saints we hold a Christingle Service each Advent in support of the Children’s Society and many of our members collect loose change at home to donate at the Box Opening each year.  But we are looking to build this relationship to perhaps support other projects. 

Friends Without Borders

The mission group was aware that we are close to Portsmouth – an area that has many asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants.  And so, the mission group was keen to partner with a charity that works on their behalf. 

Friends Without Borders provides a drop-in project giving clients a safe place to meet and professionally access advice and advocacy.  They provide specially trained Access to Justice Volunteers who give free legal advice to those who need it.

Today we have Michael Wooley with us, the Chair of Friends Without Borders.

Church Mission Society

Now the Church Mission Society works all around the world enabling, facilitating, training Christians to make a difference and join in God’s mission both abroad and in local contexts. 

We’re just forming a link and beginning to support a young family, Doug and Jacqui Marshall who work in Malta supporting and caring for Asylum Seekers. 

We really hope that this link will grow and that perhaps next year they might be able to visit us, and that we can really develop a friendship with, and be supportive to Doug and Jacqui and their family.

Mission Aviation Fellowship. 

This is what MAF say:

In today’s ‘connected world’, the irony is that never have so many people been so isolated. Flying onto desert and jungle airstrips, lakes and rivers, tracks and roads, MAF’s light aircraft and their mission pilots go the extra miles to provide a lifeline. 

Working in partnership with hundreds of other Christian and relief organisations, MAF enables practical help, physical healing, and spiritual hope to be delivered to many of the most remote and inaccessible communities on the planet.   For 70 years, MAF has been flying for life.

We have supported MAF on and off over the years – we now want to work harder at forming a close partnership with them, supporting their projects, praying for their work and raising awareness.

IDWAL

IDWAL stands for the Inter Diocesan West Africa Link that Portsmouth diocese encourages.  It is a link All Saints have supported very closely over several years, and we didn’t want to lose this link. Our Deanery Havant is linked with Diocese of Koforidua, Ghana.

And as a church we are linked to St Paul’s, Tafo.  Over the years we have worked in close partnership with several visits taking place.  Last year we had a special week focussed on our partnership with St Paul’s. 

We want to do whatever we can to encourage and develop this link – and the sharing of new and prayer requests.


As we move into next year, we really want to encourage these links, we hope each month to focus on one of our mission links, to share news, to share prayer requests, to raise awareness. 

Each day at Morning Prayer – starting tomorrow we will pray for our mission links… A different link each day. 

And we’ve also updated our noticeboards at the back of church and our website with a whole section focussed on our mission links… we will use these spaces to post up news, share prayer requests.

So, let’s just take a moment to be still – to reflect on all that we’ve heard…and then I’ll lead us in prayer.

Father God

Thank you for sending Jesus to die for each of us, so that we could know eternal life.

Help us to be salt and light… to be distinctive, to make a difference to share your love and truth with others. 

Lead us together, as we seek to work in partnership with others to share your love locally and further afield. 

We pray in Jesus name, Amen.


As we live in this way, with this value central to all we do….

It will help us to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead. It will help us be a people who KNOW God, GROW deeper in Him and SHOW His love and truth to others.  Amen.

Values: 1. Love

The first Value we will look at is LOVE  (1 John 4: 7-12 and Matthew 22: 36-40)

In all that we are and do, we will seek to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

This is centred on two passages from scripture, which we heard earlier.

Our passage from Matthew’s gospel recounts a conversation Jesus had with an individual who was trying to catch him out.  The individual wanted to know what part of the law mattered most. 

At that time, the Pharisees prided themselves on meticulous observance of the Law.  They not only knew the Ten Commandments, but they paid rigorous attention to all the laws in the books of Moses–613 laws. 

They tried to reason out the implications of the laws, and to make sure that they avoided even the possibility of violating any of them.

But the Pharisees had lost their way….

Jesus makes clear that the very heart of the matter is loving God – every inch, so to speak, our hearts, our minds, our wills, our attitudes, complete and utter full devotion.  This says Jesus is the heartbeat of all the commandments.   

Note that it is the first commandment, but not the only one.  Jesus follows it with a second commandment to love our neighbour as yourself.  Loving God empowers us to love other people.  To see them in the right frame of mind.

Jesus loved us perfectly and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).  He saved us when none of us could save ourselves (Romans 5:6-10).  And now, when we put our trust in him, we are united to him, and we are transformed so that we can imitate the pattern of his love: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 RSV). 

Through Jesus Christ we receive not only understanding of God’s will, but power and motivation to serve Him.  In receiving His love, we can, in turn, love others.

Our second passage taken from John’s letter, it reminds us that “God is love.”

Love is not just something God does, rather it is what He is, at the deepest level.

God is a Trinity of relationships and love is the very heart of the universe. 

There is nothing deeper than love. Love has eternally existed and the whole world was created out of God’s eternal love. God is the author of love and because He is love, all real love involves His very being.

So, when we have a share in this love, it is a sign that we are born of Him, belong to him in our very nature as His children.  As we love, we know Him who is love.  We are created for relationship, as He is relationship.  We are created to know ourselves in loving relationships with God and each other.

John says in v. 9 that God’s love is made manifest among us in the sending of His only Son into the world “so that we might live through him.” We learn or see this love that is God’s most clearly in the sending and coming of Jesus, His uniting Himself to our fallen nature to heal us from the inside out and give us a share in the very life He has with the Father.

Jesus is the “expiation for our sins” (v.10). By His life, death, and resurrection, He becomes the one who removes us from sin and heals and straightens out all that is broken in our lives. Now we live through Him, live in His life and receive His love.

So, in Jesus we see what true love is: love breaks down barriers, overcomes obstacles to come to the beloved. This love endures rejection and misunderstanding to bring about reconciliation, healing, peace, and life. In Christ, we see God’s great commitment to love us to perfection, to do all that is necessary to give us the fullness of love He already knows in His triune self. True love loves to perfection and perfects all that it loves. True love will not, in the end, settle for anything less than the perfection of the beloved. He accepts us where we are only to take us to where He is: the perfection of love.

So how do we love one another? Some days, if we are honest with ourselves, this can be hard to do even with those who are closest to us – husbands, wives, children, parents.   

Do we simply grit our teeth and try harder? Is it just a matter of bending our wills?

I don’t think so.

Notice John addresses his readers twice as “beloved.”

Who are we? We are the ones who are loved by God. In verse 10 John says, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us …”

Love does not start with us. God has always been love.  He created us in love, and He sent His only son to redeem us and make us sharers in the great love of the universe that has always existed. Our love grows as we receive this love from Him, as we open our arms and hearts and let Him love us.

As we turn to God and receive again the good news of His passionate love, then we abide in His love and His love is perfected in us.   

God will enable us to grow in our ability to love as we act out of our faith in Him and in this process, He will perfect His love in us – we will indeed know a day where we live in love, moment by moment.

In the weeks ahead, we will return to our Vision and consider the other values. 

So today, can I encourage us all, to turn to God again,

to receive his love poured out for us in Jesus,

to welcome him into our hearts afresh and to ask Him for his help, 

– that we might love Him with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

As we live in this way, with this value central to all we do….

It will help us to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead. It will help us be a people who KNOW God, GROW deeper in Him and Show His love and truth to others.  Amen.

Vision and Values – Introduction

Vision and Values of ‘All Saints’

Earlier this year the PCC spent some time thinking about, praying and discussing what our Vision and Values should be here at All Saints.  Then at our APCM meeting in April we shared them with everyone. 

And so now as we head into Autumn we’re going to spend some time focussing on our Vision and Values and how they shape and form us as God’s people in this community.

Let’s start by thinking a bit about Vision….

So, to get us started here are some vision statements from leading world-wide companies/organisations.

Let’s have a look at a few and see if you can guess who they belong to. 

  1. Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.  (Nike)
  2. To save the world from mediocre coffee…  (Costa Coffee)
  3. Inspire the world.  Create the future (Samsung)
  4. To be the world’s best, quick service restaurant experience.  Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.  (McDonalds)
  5. A just world without poverty (Oxfam)

Five quite different Vision statements… but there are several characteristics that they share.

Firstly, Vision is about the future. 

Secondly, Vision is all about having a clear picture, a picture in your mind’s eye of the way things could or should be in the days ahead. 

But Vision isn’t just a vague hope or wish or dream, rather Vision carries with it a sense of deep conviction that this must be accomplished. There is a convicting element that propels, enlivens, inspires and energizes so that the picture isn’t just a passive interest, but becomes action and accomplishment.

So, Vision shapes, it influences, it motivates, it directs and gives purpose.

Now keeping all that on the back burner, it is also worth noting that Vision is found in the Bible time and time again.   

I believe our God is a God of vision.

God called Abraham the Father of many nations long before his wife ever had her first child.

God spoke to Moses and promised deliverance for his people – even though they looked trapped in oppression and slavery. 

God saw a fresh start and new beginnings for Ruth and Naomi when they thought all had ended.

God saw a King, a leader in a young shepherd boy named David!

God saw the mother of Jesus the Messiah in a young virgin girl.

Time and time again God had a picture – a vision… and it wasn’t fanciful, but step by step that Vision became a reality.   

It shaped individuals, communities and nations. 

God’s Vision has always been about freedom, healing, and relationship with a loving heavenly Father. 

As a PCC we also had in our minds the stories Jesus told of God’s kingdom, stories of growth, mustard seeds becoming towering trees, stories of invitation and welcome, stories of change, transformation and healing, stories of acceptance and love.

And so, with all of this in our hearts and minds the PCC agreed this Vision Statement. 

Our Vision is to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead.

And to build on that, we came up with three things that we want to be as God’s people:

KNOW God – that after all is the very heart of the Christian faith….  a people who know God, not just a head knowledge about God, not just facts, rather an active relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  A relationship of worship and trust, not just at church, but daily in every part of our lives.

Then we want to be a people who GROW in our faith and discipleship through prayer, study and trust in God.  So we don’t want to be a people who are stuck in the past, rather we want to be a people who day by day are following after Christ… to be a people who are looking to become more like Jesus in our thoughts, our actions, our relationships with others, and this will happen as we pray, as we study God’s word, as we trust daily in God.

And then very importantly we want to be a people who SHOW God’s love by serving our community…in actions and compassion, but crucially in sharing the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit.  We have the most amazing news ever – and it changes lives, brings transformation and healing….and so we want to talk about Jesus like it really matters.

And these three go together, and in a sense feed each other.  The more we KNOW God, the more we want to GROW, and as we GROW the more we want to SHOW and share that love with others.  And in turn the more we see lives changed and transformed, the more we want to KNOW God…and GROW and so we continue.

  • It is this Vision that we’re now aiming for, working towards… It motivates, directs and inspires our decisions, our actions, our thoughts, and our prayers. 
  • It’s a Vision with a desire to help every person, whether young or old, new to faith or been around for ever, an occasional visitor or regular attender, to help each and every person encounter God.
  • It is this Vision that forms who we are… our actions, our attitudes, our relationships.
  • This Vision shapes our culture…our ethos… it is who and what we are, both as individuals and as a community.

And so, to guide us, to help form our understanding we identified eight values which we want to embrace and live out as God’s people in this place.

You may read these “Values” sermons from the links on this page.

Introduction to ‘Encounters with Jesus’

Encounters-with-JesusThrough the summer months, we have been looking at several different encounters Jesus had with men, women and children recorded in the Gospels.

As we looked at each story we have seen the amazing way in which Jesus changed lives – the way he healed people, welcomed people, loved people, spoke truth to people and encouraged them to follow him.

So do read some – or all – of these, and perhaps ask the question: “how can Jesus affect and change our lives?”

 

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene meets Jesus

Luke 8:1-3, John 20:1-18

‘Brief Encounter’ is the name of a 1945 romantic drama by Noel Coward in which two people meet unexpectedly at a railway station and fall in love with unexpected consequences.

‘Strange Encounter’ is the name of a 1995 detective and science fiction story by Edgar Jacobs.

This morning concludes our Denmead summer series of ‘Encounters with Jesus’.

What does the word ‘encounter’ conjure up for you? Certainly a meeting – perhaps brief or extended, maybe sudden, unexpected, and likely significant, not just any old meeting.

Mary Magdalene’s first encounter with Jesus was likely dramatic and life-changing, at a low and needy point of her life. And it led to faithful and significant ministry by her. Strangely, now people seem to spend more time hazarding guesses about her previous character than drawing inferences from her subsequent discipleship. More anon. Then finally, she had a further, unique and privileged encounter with Jesus on his resurrection morning.

Her encounters with the One who came to give us life were transforming and unforgettable:

  • freedom from personal bondage – One from whom seven demons had been cast out, says Dr Luke
  • also as a member of a support group to Jesus and the twelve disciples
  • finally, as first to meet the risen Christ face to face

Our knowledge of her is confined in the gospels to Luke 8 and the Easter morning narratives, one of which we read today from John 20.

LUKE speaks of ‘Mary, called Magdalene’, naturally leading us to presume that she was from the Galilean town of Magdala; and to help distinguish her from other Marys in the New Testament, of whom there may be up five apart from Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary Magdalene is spoken of with others as providing for the material needs of Jesus and the twelve disciples, as they travelled proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And surely Mary must also have been a significant witness on these road-trips, to the power and love of Jesus, seeing the freedom and healing she had received from him. Quite a story to tell!

JOHN tells of her glorious Easter morning encounter when, before first light, she goes to Jesus’ tomb, discovers the stone door securing the tomb has been moved, runs to tell Peter and John, and after their discovery that the tomb is empty (and going home for breakfast!), she is left alone in grief and confronted with two angels and the risen Lord himself.

‘Mary’, says Jesus. ‘Teacher’, she replies in stunned amazement.
‘Don’t hold on to me’, He says.

Going back to the disciples as Jesus instructed her, she says, ‘I have seen the Lord’ – surely five of the most significant words ever uttered, announcing the resurrection of Christ which the others were at first so slow to believe. Though she didn’t fully know it she testified to the triumph of Jesus over sin and death; their dominance eternally destroyed.

Some of the encounters we have reviewed in previous weeks were brief like those of the rich man and the centurion. Others like Nicodemus’s and Mary’s were ongoing. Some were public, some private; some dramatic, some low-key. But all were significant and most transforming. An obvious exception seems to be the rich man who ‘went away sad’ because he was not ready to give Jesus pride of place in his life and his living.

Mary, however, strikes me as a devoted and practical disciple of Christ:

She gave of her time and money as she lived out faith and gratitude (resources)

She likely told her story of what Christ had done for her, freeing her from powers of darkness in her old life. Why wouldn’t she?

She remained faithful in her commitment and devotion to him, even in the face of danger and death as a close associate of Jesus at the end of his earthly life.

She showed conviction, commitment, faithfulness and risk.

At the present time, our church, we are learning, is in need of resources – people, you and me, to give of ourselves – our prayer, our time, our money.
Insofar as we have encountered Christ and want to live as his disciples we will respond from our resources. Like Mary Magdalene, we have opportunity to give of what God has given us – life, skills, time, prayers and material resources.

First among them is need for consistent prayer for church and society, alongside whatever else we may give:

Think back to our recent DABS week. It was sustained by work and by prayer. Prayer should precede everything else we do, so that we consciously invoke God’s Spirit on our service rather than mistakenly think that deeds of the flesh can accomplish the work of the Spirit.

And soon the Alpha course will begin here, organised in partnership with the Baptist church. Around eighteen people so far have asked to attend. As well as commending Alpha to you – it’s not too late to join and benefit from the meeting, the teaching and the discussion – there’s a need for many to be willing to pray for it; that it may be beneficial and effective in the work of God’s kingdom.

Like our Sunday Summer series, Alpha speaks of encountering Christ. We do so in many ways as God has his unique dealings with us. The stories of many others tell us that Alpha is one such valuable way.

Mary Magdalene modelled whole-hearted faithfulness and devotion to Christ. Taking faithful support and prayer as a practical lesson from her example, and being committed to pray for Alpha, would be a valuable way of responding to her story before you forget it and move on to the next thing!

The Rich Man

The Rich Man

Luke 18:18-30

May God grant us the grace we need to hear His word and the faith we need to respond. Amen.

This passage is a troubling one. It was troubling for the disciples, for the wealthy  ruler, and it is for us. It seems too radical, too abrupt, too … well, too immoderate to suit our tastes. But it’s easy to miss the truth when it is delivered in moderation. The truth, however, can be unmistakable when delivered unvarnished, undiluted. And that is the kind of powerful truth-telling Jesus is known for.

Luke places this event in the midst of a series of incidents and parables designed to indicate the character of discipleship

“A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ”

The word translated “ruler” is from a Greek word generally meaning, one who has administrative authority, ‘leader, official.’ ” It is used of various Jewish leaders, including those in charge of a synagogue and members of the Sanhedrin.

Luke tells us “he was very rich.” pertaining to having an abundance of earthly possessions that exceeds normal experience. And so we have an earnest man, probably because of his wealth and earnestness about spiritual matters, a person entrusted with governance in the synagogue, a ruler, a respected person in the community.

Most of the wealthy, religious people who asked Jesus public questions were trying to trick him into some imprudent statement. But this man’s question was no trick. It was a sincere question to which he needed to know the answer — how to inherit eternal life.

The question tells us several things about the man

He must be feeling inadequate in his spiritual preparation somehow or he probably wouldn’t ask the question.

He sides with the Pharisees rather than the Sadducees (another religious party in First Century Judaism) because the Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death. And this question clearly implies that he does. He believes that eternal life is something that one earns or merits by what he does.

He addresses Jesus as “good teacher,” a somewhat improper way to address a Rabbi, and Jesus rebukes him concerning his careless address:

‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good — except God alone.’

The man can’t understand anything else Jesus will tell him unless he grasps that our relative standards of goodness are so much different than God’s absolute goodness and God’s standards of righteousness.

After pointing out his inadequate understanding of “goodness,” Jesus proceeds to inquire more of this man’s — and his culture’s — measure of righteousness.

The man’s response is immediate. He has kept all the commandments, but still senses a lack, an incompleteness, or else he wouldn’t have come to Jesus in the first place. Now Jesus speaks to the young man’s point of need:

Jesus said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

It is an ironic exchange that Jesus proposes — exchanging fabulous wealth here on earth for fabulous wealth in the Kingdom of God. Many in history have tried to buy their way into God’s good graces — many of the world’s beautiful cathedrals, temples, and mosques are inscribed with the names of generous benefactors. But Jesus is not proposing buying anything or doing anything glorious. He isn’t proposing a massive contribution to the Jesus Christ Evangelistic Association that will spread the Gospel in perpetuity.

Jesus proposes the man selling all his property and giving the proceeds to those who are least able to reciprocate

Money, however, isn’t the only thing that Jesus asks the man to give up:

  • Possessions, what money will buy,
  • Status and influence that wealth affords.
  • Power. Wealth is power. It buys influence.
  • Community leadership. The man isn’t very likely to continue as a respected ruler without his wealth.
  • Family. The man probably comes from a wealthy family. But if he disposes of a huge chunk of the family wealth, will his siblings understand and accept it? Will his wife and family? His father or mother if they are still living?

But Jesus’ words don’t just upset the rich ruler. They also upset us. I have heard many times the response to this passage: “That doesn’t mean everyone should sell what they have, does it? If everyone did that it would result in chaos.”

Obviously. But why are we even worried with the question? Do we, too, feel possessive of what we have? Do we fear that Jesus may require us to do something that would cost us too much? What are we afraid of?

The story of the rich ruler exposes a raw nerve in us that causes a reaction. But disposing of wealth was not all that Jesus asked the man to do.

However, I don’t think that the following Jesus invites this man to do is just figurative.  I think he is inviting the man to join him on his journeys, to become one of the disciples who enjoy the immense and unspeakable privilege of spending time with Jesus and learning from him on a day-by-day basis. What a wonderful invitation!

But the invitation implicit to us is no less wonderful. We, too, are invited to come to Jesus, and then to follow him on a spiritual life journey. To enjoy his company, his presence. To be taught along the way by his Word and Spirit. To become part of his great extended family, the Body of Christ throughout the world. And to be filled with hope in the closing days of our journey as we know his promises and feel his comfort with us.

“Come, follow me,” is the invitation Jesus extends to you and me.

But the challenge for disciples remains.  Is there anything, any hindrance, that you are unwilling to give up to follow Jesus? You may not be wealthy, but if there is something you possess, or that possesses you, laying it down is a vital part of following Jesus. He must have your all. And he calls gently to you: “Come, follow me.”

Prayer

Dear Father, Jesus’ words have a way of piercing our hearts and defences we have built up against you and doing things your way. Make us tender-hearted. Gently expose the reservations of our hearts, as you did for that wealthy man those many centuries ago. But give us grace to be able to obey you. Forgive us, Lord, for clinging to the remnants of a life independent of you, and make us wholly yours. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.