May 18th, 2020
it The Way of Peace by Pastor Dave
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5: 1-2
Ephesians 5: 22 – 6: 4
CBC quoted Federal Consultations last week which cited a 20-30% increase in domestic violence due to the COVID 19 situation; sadly not an unanticipated consequence. In my roles as a Police Officer and now Priest I have dealt with this matter first hand and across the spectrum, ranging from minor problems to the horror of loss of life (suicide, manslaughter, murder). As a son, brother, husband, father and friend I know, as I am sure you do, the tensions and difficulties of relationships. We all know some of our own failings and weaknesses in this area (whether or not we consciously acknowledge them). I am sure in this ‘new norm’ that we are dealing with we have all struggled at some time and in some way in our relationships. Tensions reveal fault lines and create frictions. What I share now is relevant for all because it is God’s truth. In the main though I believe it will best help relationships that are simply stretched, those in crisis mode will likely need some outside help as well. Domestic Violence is an incredibly serious matter and should not be underestimated or dismissed. If you or someone you know, are in serious difficulty please see the websites listed at the end of today’s reflection and follow their guidelines.
What then can help us with the difficulties in our relationships and with the failings we find in ourselves and perceive in others? The reading in Ephesians today is often maligned and misunderstood as we consider it through the perspective of our 21st century lens. At its heart is the principle of self-sacrificial love as demonstrated and exemplified by Jesus Himself (5: 1-2 above). Christ gave Himself for us, motivated by love, so that we could become who we are meant to be in God, our best possible version. Imagine this motive in the heart of each individual in a relationship. Every action motivated by love to enable the other person to become what they can be. I know straight away that I do not always have that love in me, I suspect that you maybe recognise that truth for yourself also.
When we give ourselves to God, He gives Himself to us; His Holy Spirit lives within us; He empowers and helps us to love in this way in His strength. He calls us to love self-sacrificially. In family units He calls for this self-sacrificial love that reflects Jesus’ love for us with submission and respect (5: 22-33). Children are to respect and honour their parents and parents are not to exasperate their children but are to bring them up in the knowledge and love of God (6: 1-4). So often self and pride are at the heart of our problems in relationships, the same tendencies may cause us to dismiss the teachings of this passage; we may think we now know better. We need to remember that God made us and teaches us what is best for us in love. May we begin to grasp this love and in His strength imitate it in our relationships to their blessing and His glory.
To Ponder: If you are struggling in a relationship right now trace your feelings back to the route cause; is it self and pride in you, if not what else? Read 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a; how can you love the person in your relationship in this way, what help from God and others do you need?
Prayer: Lord, we struggle to love. Help us to receive and grow to know your love that we may empowered by you love others. Forgive us for our failings and for the wrong we have done to others. Heal us and our relationships that we may know the fullness of your joy and blessings; through Jesus your Son and our Lord. Amen.
Praise: Make me a channel of your peace
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbZ4TK9xiAs
Are you facing Domestic Violence?
Reach out to someone you trust
Call 911 in emergencies
Find help and links to help via these websites:
Keep On Keeping On (by Pastor Dave)
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10: 25
Hebrews 10: 9-25
In isolation and reduced freedom it is easy to settle for a second best approach and a focus that is on ourselves and our immediate circumstances. We can find ourselves reducing our effort in life and relationships even slipping into a numb limbo state where we do not give much thought to what we are doing. It’s easy to do this and we can find legitimate explanations to justify our actions. I believe God is calling us as His Children and Church to do the opposite, to make real effort to share His love and to build up relationships. Here are three relationships to focus on with real incentives to do just that:
Our Relationship with God (vs. 19-23); we have this relationship through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection making it possible for us to have full assurance in life and death because we are confident He has made us right with Himself. We are encouraged to enter His presence and enjoy this relationship forever, holding on to the real hope He has given. This relationship is the source of all life, wisdom and joy for us – it is exactly what we need right now and it will encourage us in –
Our Relationship with the Church (vs. 24-25); neither the author nor the audience of this Hebrews letter is known for sure. What is known is that the recipients were in difficulties and in danger of falling away from their faith. We can empathise with this. They and we are encouraged to keep meeting together, to encourage one another and spur each other onto good works; this flows out of our relationship with God. We can fall into the trap of being isolated children of God, lose our joy and the Community we so desperately need. Today we have many ways of keeping in touch: online services, blogs, zoom; phones, social media etc. etc. etc. Let’s be innovative and keep meeting together. There is a purpose and blessing in this for –
Our Relationship with the World (vs. 25); the Church is God’s chosen agent of Mission in this world. The Day that vs. 25 refers to is Christ’s return where we will all need to be ready to meet Him; there will be no second chances. Matthew 24 points to the signs of this coming Day; we see many in play right now. We need to meet with God, to meet with the Church to help the World meet with God.
May I emphatically encourage you to keep on keeping on; eternal souls are at stake!
To Ponder: What specific actions can you take to deepen your relationship with God, meet as Church and witness God’s love and truth to others? If you desire further study on this read Luke 4: 38-44, 5: 12-26 and note the social, family and individual networks that helped people receive Jesus’ healing and truth; what networks are you involved in, what could you create?
To Pray: Almighty God, who through your only begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and resigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Praise: We are God’s People
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZd6ypvfmrk
On to the New Thing (By Lory Persaud)
My thoughts turned to my grandmother as I brushed a coat of primer over her old dresser, a refinishing project on a piece of furniture with an extensive history, much like its previous owner. After 98 long years, Grandma took her last breath and stepped into eternity to be with her Lord Jesus. Our family is grateful for her legacy of faith and we rejoice that she has left the pains and trials of earth to be in Heaven. She had 7 children, 14 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild—how beautiful to think of how many more lives came into existence because of her, our beloved matriarch. This recent event has me pondering about our time on earth; one generation gives way to another, there is death and there is new birth; thus is the cycle of life. Like The Ecclesiastical Teacher says…
“A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4
I don’t think I’m alone in sensing we are in a time of great transition right now, across the globe. Previously, we used to know a busy and fast pace of life, centered largely on ourselves and a circle of people we loved most, filled with hours of striving for success, power, money, and the comfort and luxury it all affords. But now: many people have lost their jobs; our young people have been furthering their education from the confinement of their homes, away from their friends and teachers at school; our seniors are feeling more alone and isolated than ever; we have a limited ability to be corporately entertained or to eat in public with our friends, and we sure can’t travel or appreciate the freedom of coming and going anywhere we please. And, of course, we are not able to come together corporately to worship our Lord Jesus and fellowship together in the way we used to.
I want to acknowledge that in all of this, we very well might be experiencing a sense of loss, feelings of grief and complete uncertainty about how to move forward. However, it does seem this pandemic has really helped us as a society to slow down and re-evaluate the way things have been spinning out of control, and also to consider the well-being of our planet and our fellow earth-mates. There is a new sense of gratitude for the ordinary people around us who pump our gas, bag our groceries, and care for us when we are ill. Do you find yourself waving and saying, “Hello” to more of your neighbours as you spend your extra spare time going for walks and playing outside with your kids and pets?
Are we witnessing the end of something and the beginning of a New Thing? I believe we are.
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
Earlier this week I was much comforted by the Lord through a dream he gave me. In the dream I was in my final year of high-school and had an upcoming exam in Pre-Calculus. I was talking to a teacher, sharing my anxiety about not feeling prepared and fearing I would fail the course, perhaps jeopardizing my graduation. Unexpectedly, this teacher nonchalantly waved her hand and told me that math was not essential for life in the future. The funny thing about all this, was that in the dream, I was wearing a dance tutu.
When I asked God what he may be trying to communicate with me through this picture, I sensed He was saying that, for me and for the body of Christ, as we move into this new era ahead, pre-calculated solutions are unnecessary. It is not a time to have all the right answers and all the knowledge to arrive at them. Rather, it is a time of transition to better things, a time to dance! We are on the verge of graduating into something beautiful and new. We have some celebrating to do!
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,4
Whether COVID-related or not, in our current time of loss, testing and transition, we can always reach out for God’s promises and hold on tight to them while we struggle through to the New Beginning. Here are some favorite scriptures that come to mind:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5
“But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” Malachi 4:2
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread…because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7-8
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8
“No eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard, and it has never occurred to the human heart all the things God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Song: Beautiful Things by Gungor: https://youtu.be/1spkhp41ig4
Remaining in Jesus by Pastor Dave
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.”
John 15: 7
John 15: 1-17
I shared from this Gospel passage on Friday but feel compelled to return to it again to ask one of the obvious questions that arises from it, “How do we remain in Jesus?” Being in Christ is crucial to our faith and lives because it is where our identity and purpose lie, it is what we were created for; so how do we remain in Him? There are five teachings from Jesus in passage that guide and help us:
There are many wonderful blessings to remaining in Jesus, such as eternal life, here are just three from this passage. Firstly we are given assurance that God hears and answers our prayers (vs. 7, 16b), secondly we will know real joy (vs. 11) and thirdly as His friends (wow!) we will produce fruit to God’s glory, a purpose filled life (vs. 8, 14, 16a).
To Ponder: How well do you know Jesus? Pray through these five steps and see where He takes you!
To Pray: Father help us to grasp the deep love you have for us then in wonder help us to know you more. Enable us through the power of your Holy Spirit within us to love you, to study your Word and then to obey your command to love. May you guide us in prayer, fill us with joy and help us produce fruit to your glory. Amen
Praise: Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPXapfFfesA
God's Blessings (By Les Kovacs)
We talk about blessings all the time as believers, We sometimes talk about giving a blessing, or we pray for a blessing, or we read in the Bible about a blessing, but have you ever wondered it really means? Blessing is God granting the power to do what he wants and intends for us to do. When we bless others in the name of God, we are in effect praying that God would send His blessing to them. When we bless we are asking God to bless someone to be successful in God’s good will and intentions for them.
There are numerous accounts of blessings in the Bible, and one of the most well-known stories concerns the two sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau. Their story in Genesis has a companion story in the New Testament. It’s the parable of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15, but that title is a little misleading because it’s really a story about two sons, one a Jacob-like schemer, the other an Esau-like plodder. Even more, it’s a story about the real Prodigal: the father. The word “prodigal”, means one who spends extravagantly, without thought about the cost. The one who does that in Jesus’ parable is not the younger son who simply spends his fortune foolishly, it’s the father. He is the one who gives one blessing after another. He spends on his sons without measure.
Think about Esau’s woebegone reaction to the news that Jacob had stolen their father’s one and only blessing: “’Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!’ Then Esau wept aloud” (Genesis 27:38). Jesus’ parable ends similarly, but then offers a grace-filled twist. The younger son, like Esau, wants to lament his loss of the blessing. But the father has an unexpected surprise for him.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Luke 15:25-31
Everything I have is yours. Jesus is telling us in this parable what John states as a basic principle of the Kingdom of God: In Christ, we have all received one gracious blessing after another. Through Christ, God’s blessings to us have no limits.
Receive His blessings. Extend His blessings. Teach your children to receive and extend these blessings as well. We should all acknowledge and bless God, the source of all blessing, and then remember to obey his command, as his power enables us, to pass on His blessing to others.
Wilderness Blessings (By Pastor Dave)
“These (trials) have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even when refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1: 7
Luke 4: 14-29
Jesus had just been baptized and His identity as God’s Son confirmed by the Father, the Holy Spirit and John the Baptist (Luke 3: 15-22). The Holy Spirit took Him into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days and was tested by Satan (Luke 4: 1-13). Satan tempted Jesus in His hunger to doubt His identity and to abuse His power by turning stones to bread (vs.3). Jesus answered, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, that man doesn’t live on bread alone but on God’s Word (vs.4). Satan then tempted Jesus to worship and serve Satan and Himself (vs. 5-7); Jesus answered with Scripture again that we are to worship and serve God alone (vs. 8, Deut. 6: 13). In the final test Satan tempted Jesus towards unbelief and again over His identity. Jesus answered with belief and God’s Word instructing us not to test God (vs. 12, Deut. 6: 16). Power, Worship, Identity and Unbelief all tested. Satan failed and Christ was proved. The Holy Spirit then equipped and led Jesus in power to begin His ministry assured of His identity and Mission (vs. 14-15).
Luke takes us, with Christ, to His hometown of Nazareth where Jesus confirmed His identity and Mission by reading from Isaiah (17-21). He was ushering in the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Is it me, or do we not then see a direct correlation between Jesus’ tests and the reaction of His home community? His identity is questioned and there is unbelief (vs. 22, Mark 6: 3, 6). Jesus was tempted to make physical bread in the wilderness, here He quotes the supernatural provision of bread that saved Elijah, the widow and her Son (vs. 24-26, 1 Kings 17:7-16); Jesus later called Himself the Bread of Life, the Word of God, that truly sustains us and gives life (John 6: 47-51, Deut. 8: 3). Finally in unbelief the home crowd drove Him to the brow of a hill to throw Him off, Satan had tempted Jesus to test God by throwing Himself off the temple (vs. 28-29, 9). In power He simply walked through the crowd (vs. 30).
Jesus’ wilderness testing had refined Him and confirmed His power, identity, mission and faith in His Father. I believe we see the confirmation of these lessons working out practically when He faced rejection and opposition in His hometown; if any were to cause doubt and disbelief would it not be friends and family?
We will all have wilderness experiences in our lives, it could be argued that the world is in one now. God can use these trials to confirm and prove our faith in Him which can result in praise, glory and honour in Jesus (1 Peter 1: 7).
To Ponder: Do you feel like you are in a wilderness experience right now? How is God’s power and your identity in Him being tested; is what you worship and serve being revealed? As you/we come out of this wilderness experience how will this testing equip you to move forward in God’s Kingdom Mission of reconciliation; how is it helping you right now?
To Pray: Thank you Lord that you have given us new birth into a living hope with an inheritance that cannot be lost; shielded by your power. Give us faith in these truths as we face trials, assured of your refining work, and filled with an inexpressible joy because of our faith in and love for Jesus. May we receive the goal of our faith, the very salvation of our souls and may we take that truth in you to others. Amen
(From 1 Peter 1: 3-9)
Praise: I am the Bread of Life
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CRMbh8ViUI - soloist
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX4uC3a7RC8 - choir
May 08th, 2020
The Vine and the Branches – by Pastor Dave
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Ephesians 4: 16
John 15: 1-17
John 15 is part of the wonderful teaching of Jesus as He speaks to His Disciples (and us) before His death and resurrection. He calls His Father the Gardener, Himself the Vine and tells us that we are to be the branches. The vine had become a picture for Israel (Isaiah 5: 1-7; Jeremiah 2: 21; Ezekiel 19: 10). It was a symbol on the coins of the Maccabees and there was a golden Vine on the Temple in front of the Holy Place. In calling Himself the “True Vine,” (vs. 1), Jesus was saying that the way to God was now through Him by faith in God’s Grace. We are to be in a relationship with Him that is so close and wonderful we are to be like branches on a Vine. The process of joining a branch to a tree is called grafting. A cut is made in a healthy tree and the branch is taped into that cut; the sap flows into the branch and it becomes part of the tree (basically!). This is a beautiful picture of how God, the Gardener, grafts us, the branches, into Jesus, the Vine, and how the Holy Spirit, the sap, gives us life. It is a life long process as we grow in and into Him.
Many factors impact that growth, both positively and negatively. Members of St. Aidan’s will know that we work to grow the Church in God in the way of the Lord’s teaching in John 15 and by adopting the Vine and Trellis approach. This latter concept comes from a book of that name by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. The basic idea is that we work to grow the vine and not just the trellis; the trellis being the structures, support and perhaps tradition of the individual Church. So often we work on the Trellis and not the Vine. I share this because I want to highlight the growth of the Vine in our current situation. Yes, the Church may be impacted negatively but what I am seeing is the growth of individual branches because of the ‘pruning’ that the Father is completing. I see how faith is deepening, love is growing, fruit being produced and consequently the emergence of real joy not just happiness (vs. 8, 11 & 12). If you need evidence of this read our Community Blog, watch the videos of messages from members of the Church, our services and take part in the prayer ministry or Alpha Course. Ephesians 4: 16 is occurring right before our eyes!
Thinking back to Wednesday’s blog on ‘Less is more,’ I see that the Trellis may be less at the moment but the Vine is certainly more and the branches are growing, producing real fruit that will last; Be Encouraged!
To Ponder; Are you grafted into Jesus? What pruning work is the Lord undertaking in your life today? How can the Holy Spirit gift you and enable growth?
Prayer: Father as our Gardener grow us into fruitful branches in Jesus, the Vine, full of love, joy and obedience. Help us to grasp this deep love that you have for us and in love obey you and love others. Abide in us that we may fully abide in you. To you be the Glory and honour. Amen.
Praise: Abide with Me
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=476_PgSf2jQ
Over the last two weeks, the teaching at St Aidan’s has touched on the topic of healing. Last week Alpha focused on whether God still heals today and last Sunday Rev. Susan touched on this topic of healing in the sermon. This is a topic that can often lead us to more questions. Does God still heal today? Why are some healed and not others? If you are like me, then you have spent a lot of time praying and contemplating about these questions over the last week. Through my prayer and contemplation, I have found that the books of Isaiah and Matthew are good starting points to begin wrestling with this topic.
In his Gospel, Matthew tells his readers that the physical healings Jesus performed during his earthly ministry fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy found in Isaiah 53:4. We read in Matthew Chapter 8:
When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him. That evening many possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a single command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet, who said “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” (Matthew 8: 14-17)
Matthew clearly saw the connection between Isaiah’s prophecies of what the Messiah would do and what Matthew saw Jesus doing. To all who had eyes to see, Jesus’ ministry of healing was a sign of his deity, his authority, and a call to believe in him.
Yet while Jesus healed many who came to him, he didn’t heal everyone, and everyone he did heal still eventually passed away at some point. So, were the healing works of Christ during the three years of his ministry the essence of what Isaiah prophesied? Was this the sum of what Isaiah was describing when he said that Jesus “was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5)?
In reality, Isaiah saw something beyond the three years of Jesus’ ministry of physical healing. He saw into his eternal ministry of healing both body and soul. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated the character of the redemption he came to purchase on the Cross by forgiving sin and healing bodies. The physical healings Jesus performed give us a foretaste of what we can expect in the age to come when the curse of sin is finally eradicated.
Many readers of Isaiah’s prophecy attempt to force into this age what God has reserved for the next – the age when there is no sickness or death. In his first coming, Christ gave us a foretaste of what it will be like in his second coming when his healing will be pervasive and permanent, given to all freely. In short, some will be healed now but all who believe in Jesus will be healed when Christ returns.
With all that being said, perhaps it is good for us to desire to know more about this topic of healing. For this is something that will be fulfilled fully in the age to come, that all who believe in Jesus will come to experience. But in the meantime, the gift of spiritual healing (forgiveness of our sins) which is guaranteed to us through Jesus bearing our sicknesses on the cross should be more then enough to sustain us who believe, until He returns.
Prayer – Lord Jesus, I pray for your healing power to be at work in my life. But if you should see fit for me to experience a situation that I must endure, I know that you will also give me the grace I need to endure faithfully, waiting in hope for the redemption of my body to everlasting life.
Less is More - by Pastor Dave
"He must become greater; I must become less.”
John 3: 30
Luke 2: 41-51
At times in our lives circumstances change and we can experience loss. That is certainly one way of viewing the restrictions we are all under. There is a sense of loss of freedom, of a way of life, and we probably all feel pain in varying degrees dependent on our situation. A major change in my life occurred when I left the Police service to go into fulltime Ministry as a Priest. At my ordination the Lord gave me the verse John 3: 30 encouraging me to see and begin to learn the lesson of John the Baptist; becoming less so Jesus would become greater. As I have lived and learnt this lesson (and by no means perfectly or fully!) I have experienced the privilege of service where becoming less can help myself and others become more in Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful journey but one that is of self-sacrifice which at times is not understood and which incurs pain.
We see these truths in our Luke reading today. Mary and Joseph are urgently and fearfully seeking the lost boy Jesus. After a frantic search they find Him in the Temple and to Jesus’ surprise they admonish Him; “Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house,” He responded (vs. 49)? Mary we are told “treasured” in her heart all that was said during this incident. We can imagine her remembering the words of the angel to her (Luke 1: 26-38) and Joseph remembering his visions (Matthew 1: 20-21). They knew, however, change was coming; that there would be some form of pain in their lives. Later for Mary the immense pain of loss at the foot of the Cross as she witnessed Jesus’ death (John 19: 26-27). They were to become less so that Jesus would become greater. Jesus’ life had changed also. He had left glory to be one of us becoming less so that we could become more. His change brought for Him the ultimate pain of death and humiliation before returning to glory (Philippians 2: 6-11). Bishop Ipgrave, writing for the Church of England on this passage in Luke, reflects thus, “…the message is clear: the primacy of God’s Kingdom is of such force that the old order must change, and there is pain in that. As Mary ponders, she knows in her heart the familiar patterns of life will never be the same. For us too, the Kingdom will change what we are used to in our lives; there can be pain in that, but there is blessing also.”
The pain of becoming less, dying to ourselves, and living to Christ, so that He becomes greater, is actually the greatest blessing and freedom there can possibly be. The old order of things may change, as we are experiencing and there is pain. Let the real change though be the privilege of entering God’s Kingdom, now and forever!
To Ponder: In the Walker Art Gallery, in my home town of Liverpool UK, you will find Simone Martini’s depiction of this Luke reading; it is entitled, “Christ discovered in the Temple,” (see below). Meditate on this picture and imagine the emotions, questions of all parties. How did each become less; how did Jesus become greater? How must you become less so that Christ can become greater and how will this help you and others become more in Him?
Prayer: Almighty God whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in Him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where He reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen
Praise: This Kingdom
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FInBsbSCnWk
Tragedies are nothing new. Whether natural disaster or human inflicted disaster, people have faced them from the beginning of time. The current Covid-19 pandemic is just another in a long line of tragic events that have disrupted our lives, shut down the economy, and killed thousands of people at home and abroad. And each time something like this happens we hear that familiar refrain from people without faith, “If God is sovereign and good, why does He let it happen?” Among people of little or no faith, they think of God, when they think of Him at all, as one who is presumably loving and good, which means that He must want us to be happy all the time, and they don’t believe that such a God could be particularly demanding or judgmental. Therefore, they don’t understand how He could possibly let such things happen. Maybe He doesn’t really exist, or if He does exist, He doesn’t really care.
At the heart of these questions is a misconception about the reality of God and our world, because both are far more complicated than the narrow understanding of their worldview. The benign God of their imagination doesn’t exist and the world can be a very hard place in which to live. The God of scripture, who really does exist, is very different from their imagination. He is Holy, infinite, transcendent, glorious, righteous and loving, far above us and far beyond our comprehension. He is good, but His righteousness wars against the sin of this world and demands judgement on it. Yet, bound up with His righteous judgment is His unbounded love and mercy.
God created and sustains all of creation, and His sovereignty extends to every single detail of it. He clothes the lilies of the field, feeds the birds of the air, and attends to every sparrow that falls (Matt. 6:26–28; 10:29). Yet, this is a fallen world because of sin. It is a world of death, transience, and futility. This is a place where the devil roams free and where we can suffer calamity, including from diseases like Covid-19. In its present fallen condition, the world is not supposed to be a secure, trouble-free, and always happy place. And yet, God’s sovereignty mitigates that world. Although bad things happen, in His sovereign will He continues to love His creation. The many beauties, satisfactions, and pleasures of life that we enjoy are the deeper signs of God’s sovereignty.
So why doesn’t God just make everything good and perfect? Well, He did, in the Garden of Eden, the paradise that we rejected, and He will again, in the eternal paradise that He has prepared for His people. In the meantime, we must live in this very imperfect world. But, remember that this is also the world in which God redeems us from our sins. God entered into this broken world in the person of Jesus Christ, who subjected Himself to its sin and death in order to save us. This is the world where we whom He has saved are called to do battle against sin, resist temptation, oppose evil, do good works, and experience all the trials and tribulations that can strengthen us in our faith and prepare us for eternal life.
In light of God’s sovereignty, tragedies like the pandemic should remind us to “lay up” for ourselves “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19–20). We should meet them with repentance (Luke 13:5); cling to Christ in faith (Ps. 63:8); pray for deliverance (Matt. 6:13); and live out our faith, particularly in our workplace, family, church and community (Matt. 22:36–40). Because God is still sovereign, and always will be, we can stand on His promise: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.