Sat, 6 December 2014
No podcast for this, just the full text of the sermon.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 quoting Isaiah 22:13 and perhaps also Ecclesiastes says “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” Now Paul does not approve of this philosophy any more than the Book of Isaiah. The full quotation from 1 Corinthians is “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”(1 Corinthians 15:32, NRSV)
The point that Paul is making is that if there is no resurrection there is no future then we might as well do what we like with our lives. For soon enough we will be dead and if there is no life beyond death it does not matter what happens after we are gone. We will have no consciousness of it. We will know and feel nothing, we will not simply sleep, we will be no more. There will never be another me, another us. If this is true we may as well enjoy life and do what we want. Indeed even our children do not matter if there is no life beyond this life, for we will know and feel nothing about them. For if there is no life beyond this life, if there is no eternal hope, then when we die, the universe dies with us. We may as well, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Perhaps it would be good for us to be kind enough to others so they will be kind to us. After all if we have good company we can eat and be merry and drink all the more. It feels good to love and to like and to be liked and to love, but really we do this for ourselves so that we can live the satisfied life. And let there be no nonsense about “living on in our children” or our ideas surviving us, or the world being a better place for us having been here. That may well be true, but if there is no resurrection, if there is no eternity, if there is no life beyond this life then after our death we will know and experience and feel nothing of it.
This is the second Sunday in Advent. The purpose of this time of year is not a run up or a count down to Christmas. Traditionally it is instead that time of year when we think about the return of Jesus at the end of time, bringing the New Heaven and the New Earth. It is that time of year when we look forward to a time when every tear will be wiped away, when death and sin and suffering will finally be defeated. It is that time of year when we look into eternity, and the hope of new life and the hope of being reunited with those who have long since or have even recently gone. Perhaps above all else if there is an eternity then we should ask ourselves, “How then should we live now?” If our story is part of an eternal story and what we do now has an eternal impact then “What could we be doing? What have we done? What will be the impact of our lives?”
Our three readings today are different ways of looking at this issue. Behind them all is a firm belief that our life is eternal. There is a future and at the end of time all will be renewed. There is a heaven and a new heaven and there is to be a new earth.
From Mark chapter 1:1-8 we hear the call to repent. We see a man dressed in strange clothes with a strange diet. We know of him that his call to people to repent, to live the a good and upright life, angered the religious authorities. It also angered King Herod’s family, so much so that they threw him in jail and eventually chopped off his head. This is not a picture of a man who believed that this life is all there is. If this life was all there was why would he put himself through all of that. No, John believed in a God who was eternal, a God who was just, and a God who was sending another greater than him. This one who was to come would baptize with the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. He would bring in the Kingdom of God. A way, a highway for God to travel on was to be prepared God would come to judge but also to bring justice and goodness to all the world.
If this is about to happen, if this promised one is coming, how then should we respond - Repent says John, turn back to God, live lives which are oriented to eternity. Live lives which reflect the goodness and the coming justice and glory of God.
We hear exactly the same kind of message in the passage we heard from 2 Peter Chapter 3 verses 8-15. God is out there and God is with us and God is coming and God who is eternal for whom a thousand years are but a day, desires that all should repent, all should turn to him for a new heaven and a new earth is coming. The first Christian believers felt they had met his new heaven and earth made flesh in Jesus. He was the promise of all things being made good and right, of God coming as Judge to sift the wheat from the chaff, and also as restorer and champion to make all things new.
The picture in second Peter is a bit like that of a smelter. The old heaven and earth like rough ore and scrap metal will be melted in the furnace, the flux and dross will be cast aside but something new and shiny and imperishable will emerge, a new heaven and a new earth. Again the question has to be asked, if this is true, how should we live? If God is coming, and if in some sense through the word of the prophets and in the teaching and person of Jesus, and the pouring out of the Spirit the God has come and in time shall return to finish off the job, how then should we live? How should we behave, how should we orient our lives?
So we move onto our third reading. Up until now the context has been on sin and repentance. Peter and John the Baptist urge us to stop living for the now and for ourselves and live with the future judgement in mind. In Isaiah 40 the tone shifts to grace and hope and comfort. A people exiled in Babylon, their city, Jerusalem, the city of God, the city of promise has been destroyed. Comfort Isaiah cries, your term has been served your sins are forgiven, build a highway for God is coming among you. God in all glory and power will come among you and all the world will see it. And God will come not to condemn. Do not fear for God “...will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40:11, NRSV)
He will come like Jesus the good shepherd of John 10 or like the shepherd of the 23rd psalm. When we read John the Baptist quoting these words, in Mark 1 we tend to think his vision of God is as a severe judge. But John would have known the context of these words, he knows that they are words of comfort. Judgement can be about condemnation, but it can also be a judge ordering that property be restored, that compensation be paid and that you have no case to answer. Isaiah spoke to people homeless and in exile saying God will bring a future, a restoration and will lead you to the green pastures, the banqueting table and the still waters. John quotes these words to people occupied by the hated Romans, trying to carry the burden of the Law. Repent not only for fear of the judgement but because there is a future, justice, comfort and forgiveness are coming. “The grass withers and the flower fades but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Sometimes those who deride Christianity and even any religion which has an eternal hope make fun of things like the second coming, judgement day, the new heaven and the new earth. In their minds they lead we who have faith to look to “pie in the sky when we die” and make us of no earthly use, but I think the opposite is probably true. Without this future hope of restoration, there is no point in caring for the needy or looking to the future of the planet or preserving history or art or culture for they have no eternal value and they die with the death of every individual, and the eventual demise of our species.
By contrast let me conclude by giving one example of someone who was inspired by this future hope and who quoted this very passage in Isaiah in bringing this vision of hope to others. Martin Luther King was a black Southern Baptist minister and the great shining light of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. He had a vision or a dream of what the future could be. Without that vision of eternity, as a black middle class minister and gifted preacher he could have had a comfortable and happy life, adored and handsomely supported by his congregation. Yet instead he risked death and violence and confrontation and hatred because of the vision of eternity, of recreation and reconciliation that drove him. He did not in his lifetime see these things come to pass but it did not matter for he had a vision of the future a vision of eternity.
Listen to his word’s :
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists...; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
If this vision is true how then should we live? (Repeat)
Category:general -- posted at: 2:02 PM
Thu, 4 December 2014
FIND REFUGE WITH US
this busy Christmas Season
Join us for our Christmas services.
Family Carols - 7 pm Sunday 21st December
Christmas Eve Service 7.30 pm
Christmas Day Service 8.30 am
ST STEPHEN'S TOOWOOMBA UNITING CHURCH
51 Neil Street Toowoomba
(Opposite the Empire Theatre)
Phone 07 4632 2971
Category:Church Info -- posted at: 5:33 AM
Mon, 3 November 2014
Proper 28 A
The reign of /CHRIST/ the King A
Advent 1 B
Advent 2 B
Advent 3 B
Advent 4 B
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 4:21 AM
Mon, 3 November 2014
Focus reading: Matthew 25:1-13 Direct Audio Download
The parable of the ten wise and foolish bridesmaids is one of those passages of the Bible which is sometimes a bit difficult to get a hold of or understand.
Oil is the key to understanding what this parable is all about. In this sermon I’m going to argue that the Oil is the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit is the way that Christ is made present to us. I think the children’s song "Give me Oil in my lamp" is pretty much right.
The other place in Matthew that speaks of wise and foolish people is the story in chapter 7 of the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. The Rock is Jesus and his teaching, the sand is something/ anything else.
We are called to keep our lamps burning, not using our own resources but using the resources that God freely gives to us, as a gift. Our lives should be lives which ask God to fill us with Christ as he comes to us through the work of the Spirit.
Our daily prayer to God should I believe be that of the children’s song. “God fill me with the Spirit that I might live a life powered by and centred on Christ and his love. A life which will witness to his love in word and action” Or to put it more simply “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning!”
Questions for thought or Discussion
What is your response to the idea that the oil in this parable is actually the Spirit or a relationship with Christ through the Spirit? Why won't the wise bridesmaids share their oil? If the oil is our relationship with Christ, what do you think of the foolish bridesmaids idea of heading off to buy some? What might have happened if they had stayed around? Who are you more like the foolish or wise bridesmaids?
Thu, 14 August 2014
I Haven't managed to record a podcst this week but and excellent sermon on Genesis 45 can be found here: http://www.utc.edu.au/sermon-the-will-and-call-of-god-gen-45-1-15/
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 3:44 AM
Thu, 31 July 2014
Just in case I don't get to post them otherwise here are the next few weeks posts from three years ago.
The above is the most downloaded sermon from the blog with over 300 downloads.
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 6:00 AM
Thu, 31 July 2014
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 stomaches 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!
Image Copyright: sedmak / 123RF Stock Photo
Direct download: Proer_13_A_Feeding_of_the_5000.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 5:04 AM
Mon, 12 May 2014
I've been rather slack the last few weeks, but if you'd like to go back to some old sermons for leent and Easter here are some links:
Which Jesus? Easter 3 (Text only)
No Easter 4 unfortunately. I may record it later this week.
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 2:22 AM
Mon, 12 May 2014
Focus Reading : John 14:1-14
If you’ve ever wondered what God is like then chapter 14 tells us very clearly. Jesus says to the disciples:-
If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Jn 14:7 (NRSV)
... Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Jn 14:9-10 (NRSV)
This is God, the Father who Jesus showed the disciples and through the Bible, us. This is the God we worship, who offers us the free gift of salvation, including new life now and beyond the grave, and who calls us to follow, in acts of love, compassion, and in standing up for what is good and right and just. Our Lord, our boss, our master, our judge, our ruler, but also, our friend, our brother, good and loving Father or parent, our Saviour and our hope. Our servant and our King. Let us live lives which reflect his character by following the example of his Son.
Questions for thought and discussion.
What is your main picture or idea about God? What do you make of Jesus’ statement “If you know me you will know the Father.”
Mon, 14 April 2014
Yet Again this Year St Stephen's is involved in the Easterfest Gospel in the Chapel and Stations of the cross.
Our own version of the Stations of the Cross Program can be found HERE
For the events at St Stephen's with artist bioographies, click HERE.
St Stephen’s Easterfest Programme
(51 Neil Street Toowoomba CBD Oppostite the Empire Theatre)
Saturday (Ticketed Events Only)
Sunday ALL FREE EVENTS
11:50 AM - Maliaka Choir
12:20 PM - Toowoomba Male Voice Choir
12:50 PM - Sapphire
1:30 PM - The Promise
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross will run twice:
Starting Point St James Anglican Church Mort Street Toowoomba
Category:Church Info -- posted at: 6:04 AM