My passion is to preach Christ from all of Scripture. Should you wish to listen, I invite your reflection (and comments if you wish) as to whether the words you hear bear His character. Are they, like him, “full of grace and truth”? (John 1:14)
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Ordinary Sunday 17, Year C
Jesus gives his friends a prayer to pray, now known to us ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. It seems to be an actual prayer he intended us to pray when together, in the best tradition of the synagogue. It’s a very Jewish prayer, which also captures many of the themes prominent in Jesus’ teaching. But for the whole breadth of Christian prayer according to the Scriptures, we need more than this prayer alone. Just for starters, Jesus moves on to a ‘parable sandwich’, which encourages us to pray with confident expectation of being heard.
The gospels invite us to ‘look’ at Jesus through reading the record of his life, actions and teaching, and then to form our own conclusions on what we observe. This, the third of John’s recorded ‘signs’, invites us to observe Jesus doing what only God can do, and then to decide the implications.
Ordinary Sunday 14, Year C
Jesus has come not only to be the Messiah of Israel, but the Saviour of the whole world. With such a vast mission (plentiful harvest), many many more labourers are needed. So pray … but don’t pray unless you’re willing to be among those who go as one of the gospel workers. And the kinds of gospel workers Jesus seeks are those first captured by the joy that all their sins are forgiven and that God knows them forever.
God has always been more ready to than even his most fervent intercessors are to pray, and his purposes are the ones that carry the day in the end.
Ordinary Sunday 12, Year C
Depression has been a blessing for my ministry, shaping me as a compassionate pastor, and building trust. In one way or another innumerable servants of God have experienced the disillusionment or even despair voiced by Elijah in 1 Kings 19.
Depression is simply one of many frailties experienced by human beings in an imperfect world. God’s purpose always is to use pain to build Christ-likeness and channel his grace to others.
My first sermon on return from extended sick leave due to a bout of depression. Strikingly, the lectionary for the day included the very passage I had in mind.
When the Apostle Paul met Christ he came to see that his impeccable religious record was worthless, and that Christ’s blood was all he needed. Today is a good day for us to learn (or relearn) the same thing. Never confuse performance with relationship. Trust Christ, only and fully.
Many of the psalms encompass the very human element of ‘lament’, honest complaint to God about pain or injustice. Some such psalms major on lament, while nearly always ending with praise or affirmation of God’s dependability. Others such as Psalm 71 major on God’s dependability, while reflecting very frankly on life’s unfairness. Two particular insights from the psalm for those times when life seems unfair are:
- Hang on to God, who is your ‘rock’, the one secure thing in the universe;
- Choose the habit of praising God for the perfections of his character and his works of faithfulness.
Psalm 19 is regarded as one of the most eloquent pieces of poetry in the Bible, and indeed one of more profound in history. It brings together two poems to constitute a hymn, extolling God’s self revelation of his perfections through the Creation (his works) and the law (his word). The psalmist then invites us to ask for forgiveness and inner change – a target not truly attained until the word became flesh (John 1:14).
Psalm 36 is one of many psalms which hold together a proclamation of the supreme love, power and justice of God, with a blunt lament on “the sinfulness of the wicked”. The psalm ‘(re)calibrates’ our minds around the gospel balance of God’s love and justice, with a hint of their coming together at the Cross.
For many people, Jesus is an impressive figure for one reason or another. But Jesus didn’t come to impress. In this the second of the seven ‘signs’ highlighted by John, we meet a man who started with the kind of ‘belief’ that looks for an impressive display. Jesus leads him to the kind of believing that lasts the distance, and rests on Jesus’ words.