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.
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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The parable of the Hurt Man Proper 10 C

Luke 10:25-37 Direct audio Download: Click Here

This story of the Good Samaritan has been told so many times that we become too familiar with it. As we have probably always been told it is a story about how we should love everyone - even those who are very difficult to love. This understanding of the story can not be denied. There is however another way of looking at it. When the lawyer and the crowd and the disciples first heard this story, they would have identified with the half dead man robbed and left lying at the side of the road. The shock in the story for them would not have been that they must love the Samaritan, their hated enemy, but that the Samaritan loved them. For me, the heart of our faith is that God in Jesus became our neighbour and lifted us out of the ditch and brought us to safety. Of course we may identify more with the robbers or the Levite or the Priest or even the inn keeper. Where ever we are God calls us to love our neighbours and when we need it to swallow our pride and accept love from our neighbours!!

 

Questions for thought or discussion.   

Imagine yourself as the hurt man and the Samaritan as a bikie, or gang member, or someone else you may make you angry or afraid. How does this change your view of the story?

What is it like for you when you are in need and someone offers you help? 

Who is your neighbour, whom Jesus calls you to love?

Image: Part of the Good Samaritan window St Stephen's Toowoomba Australia

Direct download: Proper_10_C_The_Hurt_Man-2.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 2:59pm AEST
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God is Crucial Proper 9 c 2016

Focus Reading: Gal 6:7-16   Direct Audio Download; Click Here   For an alternate sermon based on the Kings reading: Click here

God is crucial
In the Letter to the Galatians we read that instead of living lives which say thank-you for the good things that God has done and is doing for them, all of a sudden the Galatians were being asked to live out a set of rules - to obey the rules so that God would love them. The Good news about Jesus and his love had been turned on it’s head. Being a Christian had changed from being a life lived in the power of the Spirit to celebrate God’s freely given love into a life lived to obey a set of rules to earn God’s love. And the silliest thing about all of this, was that the rules are almost always impossible to keep, especially once you know what they are.
Jesus lived and taught and died on the cross, so that we could share his relationship with God. He died so that we would no longer be consumed and distracted, by sin, or the law, or houses, or our jobs, or our families or whatever and certainly not whether you’re circumcised or not.

Questions for thought or discussion
What things consume or distract you? In what ways (if any) can receiving God’s love as a gift (Jesus) set you free from these things which distract you?

Image Copyright: picsfive / 123RF Stock Photo

Direct download: Proper_9c_16_actually.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 4:50pm AEST
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Freed and Fueled Proper 8 C

Focus Text Gal 5:1, 13-25  Direct MP3 Download   Another Sermon for Proper 8 c with a mission focus

Freed & Fuelled
The book of Galatians has as it’s main theme a struggle between Paul who believes that God loves us freely as a gift and others who believe that while God is loving God demands we keep a set of rules called the Law in order for us to be acceptable to God. Paul tells us that all the rules could be substituted with “love your neighbour as yourself”. Forget the rules; let them go, that is what he is telling us. We are free to live as we wish for we are no longer bound by rules. Paul however urges us not to use that freedom for self indulgence. Instead he urges us to be slaves to one another. He urges us on the one hand to avoid the bad stuff, “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21, NRSV) More importantly he tells us that through the work of the Spirit God produces good things in us who believe. God empowers us to produce “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NRSV) We are not just told to stop doing bad, or told to do good. We are fuelled by the Spirit, or empowered to live lives of service and love.

Questions for thought or discussion.
What do you make of the idea that the fruit of the Spirit are not something to strive for but a gift that God produces in those who believe?
42% of St Stephen’s members volunteer for community service outside the church and many others love their neighbours informally. In what way if any is there a connection between the fruit that the Spirit grows in us and that wonderful community service?

Image Copyright: tomwang / 123RF Stock Photo 

Direct download: proper_8_c.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 11:12am AEST
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Freed from possession by the Law for Gospel Proper 7c

Link to Bible readings   

This is the full text of the sermon. Direct audio download link.

We might not think it but all of us have stories about how Christ’s love is at work or has worked in our lives.

And to some extent most of us will have at least some stories that are a bit similar to the experiences of those who wrote today’s Bible readings.

Our first reading is about Elijah. He had just confronted the pagan gods... It was a great victory, but the Queen was angry and wanted to kill him. He felt he was all alone... he felt that he was burnt out... he could do no more... he felt that he was surrounded by enemies... Maybe he was depressed...

But God spoke to him. God Gave him strength for the journey ahead. God didn’t speak in some huge loud way but in the still small voice.

Have you ever felt burnt out, or surrounded by enemies, felt like you could do no more? I’m sure all of us have. I know I’ve felt like that many times.

It was worst when I was at school in year 9. Because I was often bullied- surrounded by enemies. I felt I was all alone. At times I felt like I could not go on.

But at church I was not bullied, and on camps with a neighbouring church and in my Sunday School class, I learned about God’s love and I was given strength for the journey. I learned that I was not all alone. There was the church and other Christians, but much more important - God was with me too!

In Psalm 42 and 43 the story is almost exactly the same as in the story about Elijah. The psalm writer feels abandoned and surrounded on all sides by enemies. But the psalm writer also calls out to God. He remembers what God has done in the past. He remembers what it was like to worship with God’s people and so he asks God to help.

As I said before, I’m sure all of us have been through similar things. I remember once feeling like the Psalm writer in psalm 42 and 43. I was an older teenager and felt that I was all alone in the world. One night I ran out into the back yard and called out to God "Are you there!, Do you care about me?" I can't recall how it happened now but after a while, I did sense God's love and presence and I went to bed in peace.

Or perhaps we have a story like Paul’s Story. Paul had been a Pharisee, what had been important to him, was the Law. The rules, being good, doing right, meeting God’s standard. For a good part of his life he was very self righteous, but then one day, he realised that he could not reach God’s perfect standard. As we learn in Romans chapter 7:7-11, when Paul realised he could not reach God’s perfect standard he was racked by guilt, tied up with a sense of his own unworthiness. BUT as we learn in today’s reading he discovered there was another way. That way is the way of grace and faith. Our sins are freely forgiven because Jesus takes our place. We don’t have to struggle to perfectly obey the Jewish law.
As verses 23 & 26 put it: Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed....[BUT] in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. (Gal 3:23, 26 NRSV)
There have been a couple of times when I have come to a fuller understanding of God’s grace in my life. One of them was my time at college. Before I went to college, I was always early to everything. I was so anxious to obey the rules that I would feel terribly guilty if I was ever late. At college I learned much more deeply what I already knew. God loves us and accepts us as we are, not because we obey the rules. Since then I have lived a much happier and free-er life.

Finally, none of us I believe are possessed by a legion of demons, but perhaps some of us have at times been possessed, or grabbed a hold of, or seized by fear or anxiety, or hatred or bitterness, or un-forgiveness by some other emotion or force or circumstance that makes our lives hell. Perhaps like that young man we have been delivered from what has a hold of us by Jesus and his love!
I have shared before how, as a young man, because of all the bullying I went through, I was very timid and had almost no self confidence. But through my teenage years as faith awoke in me and I accepted Christ, fear was driven out of me and confidence grew in me. Slowly I became what I am now, not perfect, not complete but none the less, a confident minister of the gospel.

Image courtesy of Wayne McHugh

Direct download: Proper_7c.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 5:19pm AEST
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