Commencing a Lent-Easter series from the Sermon on the Mount, a block of Jesus’ teaching on discipleship. “The Beatitudes” (blessings) serve as the prologue to the ‘sermon’. We may consider the blessings of true discipleship under three headings, representing three heart qualities or attitudes which characterise authentic followers of Jesus: emptiness, mercy and patience for the long game.
Last Sunday after Epiphany, Yr A
The Kingdom of Judah has a new king. And Psalm 2 was penned to mark the occasion when that earthly king ascended to he throne of his ancestor. Yet the psalm points us beyond the mere accession of one of the many kings to reign in the southern kingdom between the death of Solomon and the exile, centuries before Christ. It points us to the ultimate David, David’s greater Son, who will rule supreme not just over a few surrounding nations but over all nations forever. That is, to God’s ultimate anointed Christ.
Let this royal psalm encourage us to be confident in God’s sovereign supremacy, and so to pray and plan accordingly. The God who laughs at all human presumption, and has already installed his ultimate King.
How much are Christ and his gospel truly worth to you? Is there anything you wouldn’t sacrifice to have and keep them? Is there something or someone in this life that you can’t imagine being at peace without? Or is there something you do with the instinctive motivation that not doing it could put you beyond the reach of God’s mercy? Never confuse performance with relationship.
Ordinary Sunday 3, Yr A
Psalm 27 was written by a man (most likely King David himself) possessed by two driving urges: to live all of his life in the presence of the living God knowing that there lies his most real security; and to seek God’s ‘face’, which means God himself, his person, his close presence, his lovely character. But where could such a longing truly be met? Finally only in Jesus, who by his coming us, made God known.
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It does matter where you end up. So in 2020, will you worship Jesus as your King, and offer him whatever it is that signifies what a priceless treasure it is to you to worship Him with all you are and all you have.
The UN can’t bring about peace. The President of the US can’t command peace. The military muscle of several nations can’t make peace happen. But Jesus, the one whom today we declare was born a child for us — he is the Prince of Peace. That’s the peace that can be yours today. It can transform your life, heal your broken relationships, bring you a clean conscience, forgiveness for your sins and failures – every one of them, turn a nation around .. it can do all of that and much much more — provided it can first reign in your heart. And that can happen today, right now; if you will allow it, if you will invite Jesus to form a new government over your life, to be your source of wisdom, to be your God of power, to nurture you as no earthly father can, to bring you Peace with God for ever by the blood he shed for you on the Cross.
Jesus can do all of that. That’s why there needed to be a child born for us. That’s why God’s Son has been given to us. That’s why there’s Christmas. May yours be filled with light, joy and peace as you welcome him as your ruler today.
Advent 4, Yr A
A prophecy spoken to a fearful king 800 hundred years previous now speaks a word of more glorious hope to a world in greater danger. The child born in Isaiah’s time would signal God’s presence with and rescue of his people from great physical danger. The baby born centuries later to a virgin was named ‘Jesus’ because he would save his people from their sins. As we celebrate the Saviour’s birth this year, let’s say to ourselves: “Immanuel – God was with us, God is with is, God will be with us in 2020 and always.”
The Peter of the post-resurrection, post-ascension period is a man utterly transformed by the Holy Spirit. Today we reflect on Peter in the Acts of the Apostles. We watch as Peter promises healing through the name of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, and the healing takes place just as he declared, in the sight of crowds of people at the temple. Then again we see Peter the faithful Jew changed by God’s revelation, to accept gentiles as recipients of God’s gospel mercy, and even to become the first to preach Christ to a gentile audience at the home of a Roman centurion. May we too be changed, shaped and grown to be faithful and effective servants of the Gospel.
Note: Sermon #4 in this series about Peter was preached last Sunday 1st December by the Rev’d Dr Guerin Tueno, in my absence. It is not included in this podcast.
Just as Jesus had warned, Peter did fail. The man who’d walked closely with Christ for 3 years, grasping and confessing Jesus’ true identity as God’s Messiah, now denies his Lord three times. Peter must learn, as must each of the Lord’s disciples today, that the only true and lasting basis for discipleship is not our dignity, capacity or achievement, but the grace and mercy of God in Christ.
Most people in our culture believe instinctively that a place in God’s kingdom (roughly equals ‘heaven’), something they desperately want for themselves and for their loved ones, is something a person must qualify for on their merits. Heaven, in other words, is awarded on interview. Jesus’ illustrative story of two people who went to God’s temple destroys that deadly myth in a few lines. It’s not your merits; it’s God’s mercy, freely given to those who seek