10 Minute Message
Lectionary Sermons Podcast in advance from St Stephen's Toowoomba. Reformed, evangelical but not fundamentalist attempts to struggle with the meaning of the Bible, life and faith.
More than Just a meal Luke 15:1-10 Proper 19 C

Luke 15:1-10  Direct audio download: Click here

These days a meal can be “just a meal”, like a bowl of cerial before we rush off somewhere, or it can be a celebration like when we celebrate someone’s birthday. In Jesus time there was no such thing as “just a meal”. Every meal was “more than just a meal” it was about relationships. Everyone you ate with was officially your friend and so you tried to be careful about who you ate with. If you ate with tax collectors and sinners you were considered no be like them. When Jesus ate with people like this he was saying these people are God’s friends. 

Today as we celebrate the birthday of St Stephen’s Toowoomba Meals on Wheels we are celebrating “more than just” subsidised meals being distributed. We are celebrating relationships formed between volunteers, clients and staff. We are celebrating God’s love, and human love and care shared with people who need support. Just like Jesus with the tax collectors and the sinners, we are saying that these people are loved by God, they are valuable. Not just the needy clients, but our volunteers, our staff and our committee are included in this love.

Questions for thought and discussion
How do you react to the idea that Jesus shared more that just meal when he ate with others? Who could you eat with or share food with who may especially need to know that they are loved?

Direct download: Proper_19_C_16.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 3:34pm AEST
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More than Just a meal Luke 15:1-10 Proper 19 C

Sermon Text Podcast to follow. This sermon refers to the meals on wheels service run by St Stephen's Uniting Church in Toowoomba.

One of the mottos that has been used in relation to meals on wheels is that it is “more than just a meal”. Two years ago we heard a member of the State council of meals on wheels tell the story of a life saved because a volunteer discovered a client very unwell ath their house. This story is one of many. Indeed I have personal experience as a family member of Meals on Wheels volunteers from the Geebung service alerting me to the serious state of my mum’s health. Beyond this the volunteers often go to very lonely people and bring human contact into their lives. For many people this may be a valuable point of contact in their week. Even if they have supportive friends and family this is true. Which one of us would be unhappy about a person voluntarily visiting us five days a week and spending a few friendly minutes with us. How many of us have friends or family who live outside our homes who are so dedicated.
Indeed what is true of meals on wheels is true of every shared meal. No meal share with another, whether it is a pie bought from a sales assistant in a shop, or a Sunday roast eaten around the family dining table is just a meal. It is a social interaction. It is a meeting of people. I think this is a big part of life and faith. Yes we need shelter from the rain. Yes we need clothing from warmth and to protect us from the sun. Yes we need food but we also need relationships. We need love. Without this we do not thrive. We are not fully ourselves.
This was true in Jesus’ time too. I think it is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago in Jesus’ time, but in Jesus’ time they were much better at recognising it. For them, more important than what you ate, was who you ate with. They recognised a meal as a social interaction much more than as a means of sustenance. For us we have the saying “you are what you eat”, in Jesus’ time it was “you are who you eat with”. [Repeat.] For us we have the saying “you are what you eat”, in Jesus’ time it was “you are who you eat with”.
Jesus as a teacher and healer who was inspiring people and building relationships including calling disciples was someone who others wanted to be near and he wanted to be near them, and in his culture the greatest way to show that was by sharing a meal either as a guest or as a host. In our culture and time we still see this. You know that someone has some real interest in you, wants to get close to you, when they invite you out, or to their place, or they accept your invitation.
As someone who believes in the incarnation, believes that Jesus was not only a great person of God, but that he was God truly among us as one of us I believe that God in Jesus chose to eat with us. He invites us to his table and he accepts our invitation to eat with us at our tables.
When the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s stories about the lost sheep and the lost coin complain about Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors they are complaining that Jesus is either making himself a sinner or a tax collector or he’s making sinners and tax collectors, people of God, and if I’m right about who Jesus is he’s making them the children of God. In our terms, Jesus is saying that if a tobacco company executive, a debt collector, a drug addict, a really selfish person who only talks about themselves, a person who sells their souls not because they need to but because they want a better lifestyle, a person who lives for consumer goods, if they come and if they want to listen to me and eat with me then they are the Children of God and that is a good thing.
We may not like that, but as negative and as awful as our media especially the news can be, when we hear of one child who survives an earthquake and comes alive from the rubble, or one person who escapes a fire, our hearts soar. It’s crazy to leave 99 sheep in the field and go looking for one. But when that one is found, we do rejoice with the shepherd. Who cares about one missing coin in a whole house when there are other things to do, but when it is found, when the keys, when the broach that was a gift, when the letter or the photo that was lost appears we rejoice and we love to share that joy with others.
That Jesus is saying is what it is like with God, and he’s saying to the pharisees, to the people of God, to the church, that’s what it should be like with us. It could be argued that meals on wheels is a bit pointless. Those who receive the meals are for the most part are those who are nearing the end of their lives. They do not make a valuable contribution to our community. And those who could make a contribution should be feeding themselves. But meals on wheels is not about economics or even just feeding the hungry, it’s about more than just a meal. It is about relationships. It’s about the joy and pleasure that comes in sharing in the lives of others.
That is not only what meals on wheels are about, it is what God is about and it is what the church, and the Christian life could and should be about. We see this in Jesus who ate with everyone and was happy to be welcomed and to welcome all to the table.
For those of you who know this welcome of God, who have received Jesus at your table, hear the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, look to his example and invite people to your table, to the church’s table and accept their hospitality even if they are a tobacco company executive, a debt collector, a drug addict, a really selfish person who only talks about themselves, a person who sells their souls not because they need to but because they want a better lifestyle, a person who lives for consumer goods. For there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 respectable people who do not need to repent.
If you have not experienced this love, this welcome of God then you are invited, come to the table, there is a place for you. Invite us and invite Jesus to join you where you are. We would love to share your friendship and break bread with you. God in Jesus longs to be your friend, to be your host and your guest. Invite him in to share with you and you with him. Amen.

Category:general -- posted at: 11:06pm AEST
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Focus Reading : Matt 14:13-21 Direct audio download

 I've posted this a few times but this time I post it with the longer version. For some reason this longer version of the sermon with nearly 200 downloads is more popular than the original shorter version.

I want you to put yourselves in the place of each of the characters in the story of the feeding of the 5000.

             Who are you more like?

Are you like the crowd is there some emptiness, some need which has to be filled? (It could be a need for food, healing, hope, meaning or even material things.)

             Are you more like the disciples? Is Jesus calling you to fill the emptiness of the world with hope or food or healing? Is Jesus calling you to some ministry which seems too big for you? Beyond your reach?

             Or are you more like the young child? You have something to give, but it seems pointless. How could my small donation fill the stomachs of the hungry? How can my small gift or ability or idea bring help to others? (John 6:9)

Today's story reminds us that as impossible as it might seem God (in Jesus) can and will use your small resources, abilities and efforts to fill the emptiness of ourselves and others. (Not only fill it but there will be left overs as well!

 

For a shorter version of this sermon click here 

Image Copyright: sedmak / 123RF Stock Photo

Direct download: Proer_13_A_Feeding_of_the_5000_long-1.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 9:23pm AEST
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Focus reading: Psalm 107:1-9

Direct file download

This psalm is essentially a call on the people of Israel to bear witness to all the wonderful things that God has done for them. This should be the pattern of our lives. In our worship, words and deeds we are called to announce this - announce the wonderful things that God has done and is doing and will do. One particular way we can do this is in prayer and this psalm provides a good model. When we prayer we like the psalmist we can:-

i.understand our lostness, our broken-ness and our need. (v 4-5)

ii.cry out to God - ask for help. (v 6a)

iii.remember and believe that God answers prayers. (v 6-7)

iv.thank God for all he has done. (v 8-9)

Now in these difficult times, prayer and the reminder of what God has done for us (especially in Jesus) has never been more important.

Questions for thought or discussion.

What in your view are the are purposes for prayer? Where do you place most of the emphasis in your prayer? (Eg Asking for stuff, thanksgiving, listening, etc.) What motivates you to pray? What do you think about the idea that prayer is proclamation? 

 

Direct download: Proper_26_A_2011-2.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 9:02pm AEST
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Worship is thanksgiving, joy, awe and deep respect! Proper 16 C for August 22

Focus reading: Hebrews 12:18-29 Direct audio download Click here 

The heart of our worship, should be characterised by thanksgiving. It should be a celebration of the Mercy and forgiveness of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. I believe we can and should have fun in worship, but at the same time, we should show God the great awe and respect that God deserves.

We should in all our worship dedicate our whole selves to God. If we don’t do this we cannot fully live out our mission.

So, at home in personal and at church in gathered worship

- do your best to understand and respond to and celebrate what you hear in the Bible.

- do your best to understand take part in and respond to what God might be saying to you in prayer.

- do your best to sing and respond to the meaning of the songs.

- do your best to respond to God as God uses preachers and devotion writers and those who contribute to Bible study materials, to open up the Bible and show us the love of God.

If we do this then we will be a little closer to worshiping God with our whole selves and loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Questions for thought or discussion. 

What do you think of what I have said about worship today? What do you think of Hebrews’ vision of worship? (Hebrews 12:18-29) What question would you come up with to help others reflect on the nature of worship?

Direct download: Proper_16_C_Worship_as__thanksgiving-1.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 10:18pm AEST
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Carried across the line. Proper 15 C 2016 Heb 12:1-2

Focus text Hebrews 12:1-2 Direct audio file download

Before you listen to this podcast you may want to google Derek Redmond or Click here for a video clip of the run.

In my podcast three years ago when I talked about this passage I concentrated on our running of the race encouraged by those who have gone before us in the faith. This time round I’m going to pick up on the theme of Jesus being the one who “Leads us and makes our faith complete.” (Heb 12:2 CEV)
    The picture I have in mind is inspired by the story of Olympian Derek Redmond who in an Olympic final broke down but completed the race when his Father came down from the stands and helped him across the line. This is the picture I have of the role Jesus plays in the Christian life. He came to us from beyond, becoming one of us. Like Redmond’s father he left the stand and joined the human race in order that we may finish, even carrying us across the line.

Questions for thought or discussion
What motivates you to keep running the human and the Christian race? What do you think of the notion that Christ is the completer or perfecter of our faith?

Image Copyright: ms10 / 123RF Stock Photo

Direct download: Proper_15_C_16_pod.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 2:20pm AEST
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Live lives of Thanksgiving Proper 14 for 7 August 2014

Another repost, this week from three years ago. Listen out for reference to a rubber Chicken.

Focus readings: Isa 1:1,10-20, Ps 50:1-11, 22-23, Heb 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40   DIRECT AUDIO DOWNLOAD: click here

The reason that the disciples could leave fishing, tax collecting, and all they had to follow Jesus was because they came to believe that they were in God’s hands and that in Jesus and all he did and taught The Kingdom of God had come near. As Jesus in from Luke 12:32 puts it, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

From a financial point of view I would love to be able to tell you that to be blessed by God you have to give all your spare cash to the church.  I can’t do this however because our motivation to live the Christian life is not reward and punishment. It’s not a transaction- if we give God X God will give us Y. Instead our motivation should be thanksgiving. For if we know it's true that we have and will receive the Kingdom then we must live accordingly. We must live lives of thanks, not to get something out of God but because God gives us everything.

(To understand the rubber chicken picture you will have to listen to the audio.) 

 

Question for thought or discussion. What do you have to thank God for? What sort of list can you come up with if you “count your blessings”?

Direct download: Proper_14_C_2013_1.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 6:59pm AEST
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Heavenly minded and of great earthly use Proper 13 C

Bible readings (Focus Col 3:1-11) Direct file Download Click here

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” says Paul in Colossians 3:2 (NRSV) and Jesus says “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:20, NRSV) In today’s reading he urges us to be “rich toward God”. (Luke 12:21)

    What does this mean? Are we being urged to be so heavenly minded we are no earthly use?
    I think the opposite is true. I think it is the earthly minded like the rich fool of Luke 12 who are of no earthly use. He stored his wealth away and did not share it. This meant that neither he nor anyone else benefited. If on the other hand we believe in the resurrection, if we believe that when Jesus was raised to new life, we were also given new life, then we have eternal security. We do not need to store up riches for ourselves on earth. We are free to share and love and serve others.
Indeed the Jesus story says that Jesus died, and was raised and lives for everyone - even you! In that story, you share in his glory in heaven. If that is who you are, and if that is who every person could be then imagine what the world could be like. Imagine living that out. Imagine a world where “...there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” (Colossians 3:11, NRSV) This is what we should seek and set our minds on. If we did what would our earthly world become?

Questions for thought or discussion.
What could be the results of living with a vision of a heavenly reality? Think of some people of vision. What things have they achieved?

Direct download: Proper_13c.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 2:10pm AEST
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God as Father, Forgiveness and the Lord's prayer reprise. Proper 12 C 2016

This is a repost of a sermon podcast 3 years ago. One of the more popular downloads.

Focus Reading: Luke 11:1-13 Direct file download: Click Here

The Lord's Prayer is challenging in lots of ways. Two of those are in the area of forgiveness and the imagery of God the first person of the Trinity as a "Father". In my reflection on this I take a very Jesus centred view. I believe that the Lord's Prayer and all prayer is corporate. Even our private prayer addresed to God or "The Father" is prayed with Jesus. When we pray "Our Father" we are sharing in Jesus relationship with the one he called "Father" or "Dad". We should not think of "The Father" as a super version of our Fathers, but as the One who is revealed in Jesus as just, compassionate, loving, and merciful. 

In the same way when we pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us", we are also praying with Jesus. If we are honest I don't think many of us would like to be forgiven in the way that we forgive others. We would rather a deeper more profound forgiveness. The sort of thing Jesus displayed from the cross. If we pray this prayer by ourselves it is not much comfort. If we pray this prayer with Jesus who has forgiven perfectly, then we have great hope and great comfort. 

Questions for thought and discussion.

What does forgiving as we have been forgiven mean? How do you measure up? 

How does the notion that we do not pray these words alone, but that we pray them with Jesus seem to you? In what ways might this make forgiveness easier or more comprehensible?

What makes the notion of calling God Father difficult for some people? What do you make of the notion that we have God as "Father" because we share in Jesus' relationship? 

In what ways if any mightthis be helful for someone who struggles with the notion of God as "Father"?

Direct download: Proper_12_C_God_as_Father_and_Forgiveness-1.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 2:16pm AEST
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Sit at Jesus' Feet - Proper 11 C for Sunday 16 July 2016

Focus readings: Luke 10:38-42 and Colossians1:15-28 

Direct download link: Click here

If you go to Tannum Sands just south of Gladstone in Central Queensland you will find two places of worship next to each other. One is the Uniting Church and one is the Jehovah Witnesses' Kingdom Hall. Both buildings and their grounds are kept in good order but there is a striking difference.

The Kingdom Hall is immaculate, its landscaped lawns are always mowed and it has a paved car park. The Uniting Church doesn't always have its lawn mowed, the back third of the property has gone wild and the car park is not paved. This difference in appearance also reflects a different understanding of God.

As I understand it the Jehova's Witnesses believe that they must earn their way to heaven by doing good deeds and getting everything right for God. Part of this is their service to the church including maintaining the church building. If they honour God through doing these things they will receive a place amongst the crowd in paradise. God will love them.

The Uniting Church people along with most other Christians believe something quite different. They believe that God already loves them. They believe that God came among us in Jesus. In him we saw what God was really like, and God loves us even before we love God. They do not have to do anything to earn that love. They do not have to go door to door, and God will still love them if the church lawn doesn't get mowed this week.

Yet the Uniting Church people still do mow the lawns. If one of them is sick, they will still pray for them, visit them and support them. They are involved in various kinds of community service and although they do not go from door to door they are willing to share what they believe with any who would hear.

If God loves them anyway why do they do this? It is I believe to say, "thank-you!" "Thank-you God for loving us and coming among us." 

Questions for thought or discussion

If you have an important guest are you more like Mary taking time to sit and listen or are you like Martha striving to get everything right? What are the strenghts and weaknesses of each approach?

What motivates you to love God and your neighbour? What if anything do you hope to receive something in return? 

How effective is thanksgiving as a motivator for loving the other?

Direct download: Proper_11_C-1.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 12:59pm AEST
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