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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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.
Christians whose praying habits are formed by the Old Testament, including especially the psalms, will pray regularly for national leaders. In doing so they’ll pray for the social justice and prosperity that God desires and that reflect his character. But they’ll pray recognising that justice and security cannot come in full until Christ takes up his full reign transcending all time and space. So Christian prayers for leaders and nations will end with the cry, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Christmas 1, Year C
In the only biblical account of an incident in Jesus’ childhood, at the end of the Christmas story, Luke points us beyond the manger to the Cross. Jesus didn’t come to pose for baby snaps; he came to live out his Father’s will in perfect obedience, all the way to the pain of the Cross. The manner of his ascent to Jewish male adulthood, still well before the start of his ministry, confirms this.
Jesus isn’t good news merely for ‘respectable’ people; he’s good news for everybody. The circumstances of his birth make this very plain, and his subsequent ministry confirmed it. The first people to hear and pass on the best news in history were a band of social undesirables of generally low repute, shepherds. Whoever you are, this is fantastic news for you. You don’t need to become religious or respectable for God to pay attention to you; you need only ask for a fresh start.