“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13: 12
Matthew 16: 1-4
In Manitoba right now we may unwittingly slip into an attitude similar to that of ‘living in a bubble.’ The pandemic has been managed incredibly well by all parties and its impact has not been as drastic as elsewhere. A small excursion into news outlets and we will discover the devastating consequences worldwide: increasing numbers of cases and deaths; massive national debts being accrued; the impact in poorer countries; worrying employment projections; continued environmental issues; and difficult demographics in population projections. What are we to make of all of this? I wrote last week about the need to be awake to our reality and to use our time and talents well. Rev. Kim connected with this too in yesterday’s sermon (on our website). So how do we understand our reality so as to act appropriately?
In our Gospel reading we find two unusual bedfellows; the Pharisees and Sadducees. Two very different sects with differing views and yet they join forces to oppose and undermine Jesus. They ask for a sign to back up His claims (vs. 1). Basically Jesus tells them that if they opened their eyes they would see and understand. They can forecast the weather but cannot interpret the signs of the times or perhaps do not want to (vs. 2-3). Jesus simply tells them that the only sign they will receive is the sign of Jonah. Jonah was a prophet who took a message from God to the people of Nineveh against their wickedness (Jonah 1: 2; 3: 3-4). The people listened, believed and repented; God relented and showed compassion (Jonah 3: 7-10). Jesus was telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that He Himself was God’s last Word and message; He was and is the sign. He taught them God’s truth (with incredible signs as well!) and interpreted the times. His message was clear, “The time has come, the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News,’ (Mark 1: 15). They only had to have ears to hear; it was as simple as understanding the weather.
There are many opposing forces, views and attitudes towards Jesus Christ. Times can seem oppressive and confusing. In Christ however we are confronted with God Himself and His truth. We have an explanation for all things and clear interpretation of the times. Paul reminds us that all things will be clearly revealed when Christ returns (1 Cor. 13: 12) but until then we can see the truth by looking to Jesus Christ. The more we look to Jesus the more clearly we see. As we see clearly we gain the wisdom to know how to act (we will consider this last point on Wednesday).
To Ponder: What causes you most confusion in life? As you identify the cause understand where your mind’s eye is focused. Turn to Jesus and His written Word for explanation; how does this change your attitude, belief and potentially actions?
Prayer: Lord you call us to fix our eyes upon you. Help us to look to you to see and understand our lives and situations more fully. Grant us the reassurance of your sovereignty, providence and amazing Good News. Lord help us to see clearly. Amen
Praise: Father I place into your hands
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbLjp4-8NdY
Be Thou my Vision
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIMhshpf0Y4
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
John 15: 8
Matthew 25: 14-30
‘Speculate to accumulate,’ says a friend of mine, is a principle we see in the Parable of the Talents. My friend, now a Priest, but in a former life a Trader on London’s Stock exchange, explains how experimental investment is made with the hope of gain. In the parable a Master entrusts his servants, according to their ability, with varying amounts of talents,* as he absents himself on a journey. The intent is implicit, the servants are to put their talents to work for the Master’s profit; they are to speculate to accumulate. Two successfully gain more talents, one buries his talent in fear. The Master returns and rewards the profitable servants with praise and more talents; the fearful servant is chastised and cast from his Master’s presence.
God endows us all with gifts; talents. We are not equal in ability but we can be equal in faith and action. God blesses us through His Son and Holy Spirit, He bestows upon us His wisdom, His Word (the bible) and Church. All these blessings equip us in the use of our individual gifts. So, whilst fear and procrastination may promote inaction we cannot claim ignorance as an excuse. The fearful servant in the parable simply hid his talent. In a false sense of control he wanted to return the talent to his master in the state in which it was received. Many of us favour the status quo, keeping things as they are, it provides a sense of security. Jesus, however, tells us clearly that there can be no faith without action, without adventure. We are to use all His blessings to speculate with our talents to accumulate for the Kingdom of God; our motive to glorify God, producing fruit as His disciples.
Whatever talent we have, the more we use it the more proficiency we gain in its use. We learn from our successes and failures in the practice of the talent. We know this to be true with skills in sport, music, language and so on. We also know that if we fail to use it we lose it. These principles are true with the talents that God gives us. He desires for them to be used in His service; the more we use them for His glory the more competent we become in exercising them. If we bury them in the ground we will eventually lose them. God will use all things, including the exercising of our gifts, for our good if we love Him and have been called by Him (Romans 8: 28). He wishes us to become all that we can be in the image of Christ; it gives Him joy. Let us therefore, with courage, speculate to accumulate for the Kingdom of God.
*A talent was not a coin but a weight. Its value was dependent on its material, more often than not, copper, silver or gold.
To Ponder: This week we have considered the need to be awake to our reality, to the best use of our time and today, how to use our God given talents. In prayer, discern where you stand and how you might step out in faith to speculate to accumulate?
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in our vocation and ministry we may serve you in fullness, holiness and truth to the glory of your name through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ71RWJhS_M
O Jesus I have promised
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxcsTpNrd8o
A plumb line is a string with a weight fastened to the end that helps a builder keep the walls of the structure straight (or “plumb”). It works like a level, revealing if the walls are becoming crooked, and thus vulnerable to collapse.
The prophet Amos used this familiar imagery to help the people of the northern kingdom see that God had a standard that he would use to judge their “straightness”: “I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using the plumb line to see if it was still straight……..The Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line, I will no longer ignore all their sins” (Amos 7: 7-8).
Compared to the “plumb line” of God’s perfect law delivered at Mount Sinai – the standard he expected of his people – the nation of Israel was completely crooked and destined for collapse. Fulfilling God’s promise to destroy the wall that did not measure true to the plumb line, within just a few years the Assyrians defeated the northern kingdom and sent the people into exile.
A plumb line is an unrelenting standard, as is God’s law. And God’s standard has not become lax. “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). God holds up a plumb line to our lives and asks, “How do you measure up? Are you built straight? I cannot just ignore your sin.” And we have to answer, “We do not measure up. We are hopelessly crooked.”
Into the harsh reality of our catastrophic crookedness, Jesus heroically comes to show us a plumb line – not weighted by the law but by grace. Jesus comes to us and says, “So you don’t measure up? I do! I lived up to God’s standard perfectly. And by grace through faith, I will give you my own perfect record so that when God tests you with his plumb line, instead of condemning you for your crookedness, he’ll bless you for my holiness.”
In the gracious plan of God, the Cross of Jesus has become the plumb line by which our lives are judged. Through the Cross of Christ, we receive mercy instead of condemnation, pardon instead of quilt. Praise God for his mercy and grace!
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Prayer – Jesus, you are the plumb line of God’s righteous standard. Through your work on the cross, you took the condemnation for my crookedness. Through your holiness I can stand up straight. Help me to live in a way that recognizes this freedom we have in you.
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Luke 12: 48b
Luke 12: 41-48
In our memorial services we often pray, asking God ‘to grant us grace to use aright our time left on earth.’ This request is the essence of Jesus’ parable in today’s reading. It follows on from Monday’s focus and Scripture and is brought about by a question from Peter, is Jesus talking to them or everyone (vs. 41)? In answer Jesus tells of a manager to whom the Master has entrusted his servants while he is away (vs. 42). In the east, at the time Jesus told this parable, such a manager, a steward, had almost unlimited authority running the master’s house and administering his estate. In some sense we could therefore say that this parable applies to Church and Ministry leaders. When, however, we look at the preceding passages, the closing verse (above) and consider the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30, our topic this coming Friday); we see that there is application for all of us. Indeed we all have responsibilities in our families, communities and lives that God has given to us. We also have the secrets of God's Kingdom to share.
The unwise servant makes two mistakes: he decides to do what he likes while his Master is away; and he thinks he has the time to put things right before the master returns (vs. 45-47). As God’s children we may well all fall into these mistakes from time to time keeping the sacred and secular divided and living to our own agendas and ambitions. The danger is that we let these traits become permanent and live with indifference to Christ’s return and His call to faithful service. The consequences are potentially eternal (vs. 46b).
The faithful servant fulfills the master’s wishes and is found wisely engaged about the master’s business when he returns; there is reward and blessing. If we actively live in a loving relationship with the Lord Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will grasp and understand the Lord’s vision and calling. This will inspire us to faithful action and commitment to His Community, the Church (the body of Christ). As we considered on Sunday we please God with faith, we grow to be like Christ in submission and we live in the Spirit through obedience.
We have been given a great deal and entrusted with much; the secrets of God’s Kingdom and blessings of salvation. The Lord does require much in return but He equips us for all He asks. Are we using our time aright?
To Ponder: What occupies your time and takes you away from God’s calling on your life and relationship with Him? How might these areas be turned into faithful service in His Kingdom? What do you make of Jesus’ stark warnings in this passage?
Prayer: O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed: through Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord. Amen
Praise: Take up your Cross the Saviour said
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCe5smMobsw
Live Like that
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r1lLYKdMLU
Bible Verse: Exodus 20:8-11 ESV
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy”.
In the Book of Exodus, as the people waited in the desert, the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The Fourth Commandment was that we should keep the Sabbath Day holy, and God explains that He created the whole of creation in six days and on the seventh day, He rested. The word Sabbath derives from the Hebrew word shabbat, which means to rest from labour. This was not just a Commandment from God but a gift to His people. It was the first time in history that a civilization had ever given ordinary, working people an official regular day off from their labours.
The gift of Sabbath was truly a unique and unprecedented gift, reminding the Israelites that they were no longer the slaves of Pharaoh, working in his service and at his convenience. Nor were their lives defined by making bricks any longer. The Sabbath forged a new identity for them as a free people, liberated and loved by God. The gift of Sabbath forms a new identity for us as well, reminding us that we are not slaves either. Our lives are not defined by our ability to produce or succeed. Our value as individuals is already established by the fact that we are loved by our Father in heaven. We have infinite worth not because of what we do or say, but simply because we are God’s sons and daughters. He gave us life, and therefore we have worth, we have value, we are precious.
In my career as a project manager, I was responsible for executing contracts worth millions of dollars. My project team colleagues and our clients all relied on me to guide these projects to successful conclusions, and I felt that weight on my shoulders constantly. I always felt like I had be “the guy”. The guy that planned the work, hired the team, managed the risks, solved the problems, and all the other activities that go into successful projects. It was interesting, exciting, challenging, but ultimately exhausting work.
It wasn’t until I came to know the Lord that I began to have a sense that God was saying: ‘You don’t need to be “the guy”. You just need to be the son.’” I was caught off-guard by this dawning understanding that I didn’t need to be successful in the worldly sense to know that I had worth. I still had responsibility for the actions of my team and the work to be accomplished, but I didn’t need to wrap my self-identity in what the things I did. I had value just because God created me, loved me and provided for me. I felt an enormous burden lift off my shoulders, and tears came to my eyes.
Have you ever felt that you need to be the go-to guy or the go-to girl, because God has a different view of you. In His view all need to be is His son. All you need to be His daughter. When we remember that we are loved by our Creator before we do or say a single thing, simply because we exist, because we are breathing, we are liberated from our enslavement to the works of this world.
As we embrace the gift of Sabbath, we remember that we are human beings, beloved sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, rather than human doings, slaves of a harsh taskmaster. As we live into our identity as beloved children of a liberating God, we will learn to accept our limitations, our strengths and weaknesses, and become comfortable with who we are, who He created us to be.
Praise be our merciful and mighty Father God!
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and sober minded so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4: 7-8
Luke 12: 35-40
Many of us will have memories of being excited children lying awake in our beds early in the morning on Christmas day. When we were fit to burst we would inch our way into our parent’s bedroom and whisper loudly, “Are you awake yet?” This was a day of joy with treats ahead; we were eager and ready. As adults, and in different ways, we will be on the other end of this scenario and whilst we may desire a little longer in bed we know the blessing of giving and sharing in joy.
In our Luke reading today we have two different parables with two unexpected visitors. The first is the return of a master the second the arrival of a thief. In both cases watchfulness and readiness is encouraged to ensure a good outcome. The master in the first parable is Jesus. We are to be ready for his return with joy and excitement, more than we have for a Christmas day. Our challenge is that we do not know the due date just early warning signs (Matthew 24). The wonder is that on His return we will be reunited in fullness with our Lord, He will take care of His household and will even serve us (vs. 37)! His joy will be very real too as our union is complete (Revelation 19: 7). This is the culmination of what we focused on in last week’s blogs and yesterday’s service (the joys of reconciliation, forgiveness, no condemnation and life in the Spirit as children of our Father God). Jesus though issues a warning in His second parable which we will now consider.
I have attended many reports of burglaries (home invasions) where the owner had been caught out and was suffering the pains of loss and agonies of being a victim; often they were in some way negligent because they were unprepared. The ‘thief,’ in Christ’s metaphor, would steal the joy of peace with God and eternal life from us; we do not want to be caught sleeping (vs. 39).There are many things in this world and our culture that would ‘steal’ the truth of God from our hearts and distract us from our true vocations (a relationship with God). Jesus calls us to be ready for His return and to be wary of the thief so that we do not miss His joy in our lives (vs. 40). There is no time for procrastination, apathy or indifference. We do not want our ultimate joy and purpose to be stolen from us. Love is key; for our God, our neighbour and ourselves. This love will ensure that we are ready and watchful. Are you ready to encounter Jesus today in unexpected people and places, are you ready for His return? Are you awake yet?
To Ponder: This week we will focus on the topics of being ready and how we can prepare. As we consider this first reflection consider what causes you to lose your focus on the Lord; how are you sleeping (metaphorically)? What could you do in preparation for the Lord’s return?
Prayer: Father, please help us to be clear minded and alert, knowing the reality and truth of your return. As your children guide us in your love and enable us to pray, without ceasing. May we be as excited children awaiting your arrival and be bursting with joy so that we share your truth with others. In the name of your Son our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
Praise: From the squalor of a borrowed stable (Immanuel)
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YksTeR61O1I
Come Thou long expected Jesus
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRAFQCOkjgE
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
1 Peter 5: 5b-6
Luke 18: 9-14
The parable of the Pharisee and Tax collector. Well known, and I am guessing we all hope to see ourselves more in the tax collector than the Pharisee. Dean Martyn Percy retells this parable in the following way, “Two fine folk went to church to pray; one was a conservative, and the other a liberal. The conservative went to the front of the church, knelt down, and prayed thus: ‘I thank thee Lord that thou hast not made me like this liberal at the back of church – weak on doctrine, weedy morals, watered-down creeds and wishy-washy ideas, with compromised convictions …’ But the liberal stood at the back, reflecting coolly on the irony of the situation. And prayed thus: ‘Lord, keep me open to the ideas of others – even though they are probably wrong.’ ‘I tell you’, said Jesus, ‘neither of these fine folk went home justified.’”
I do not like labels because we each carry our own interpretation of what they mean. Our understanding is then attached to people whether or not there is merit in our judgement. Is there not an element of prejudice in this behaviour? In this parable Jesus is calling us to all recognise our absolute need of God. None of us are without fault (Romans 3: 23) nor comprehend, know and own the whole truth. Jesus alone is the truth (John 14: 6) and we need to entrust ourselves to Him and move away from judging others. Surely if we take part in the latter, we leave ourselves open to that same judgement. Humility is the name of the game here. This humility (that we discussed on Monday) enables the Father God to open His arms of welcome to us, it paves the way through repentance for the forgiveness that we considered on Wednesday. It helps us see others as being made in God’s image and promotes the realisation that we need one another. If we listen to our neighbour in God’s presence and grace His truth will be revealed.
May we all, along with the fictional tax collector, humbly bend a knee before Almighty God and display that same humility towards others (1 Peter 5: 5b-6). This attitude helps us to be in Christ where we ourselves then live in the Holy Spirit without condemnation (this our focus on Sunday at 9.30am). Charles Wesley sums these truths up wonderfully in today’s hymn, ‘And Can it be.’ Here we sing of God’s amazing love that brings freedom from condemnation and enables us to boldly approach His throne. A throne founded on righteousness and justice with love and faithfulness before it (psalm 89: 14).
To Ponder: Consider a trait, personality, principle or person that you disagree with or do not like. Humbly give this to God and seek His truth on this subject through prayer and in His Word. What impact does your humility and God’s truth have upon your view; is God calling you to do anything with His revelations?
Prayer: Gracious Father, by the humble obedience of Jesus you brought salvation to our wayward world. Enable us to imitate His humility and thereby draw us into harmony with your will and one another that we may find all things restored in Him, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Praise: And Can it be
Link - https://youtu.be/29myH7xXI4M
Real faith is honest. Real faith struggles. And it is real faith we hear from the psalmist as he cried out to God in Psalm 130: “From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer” (Psalm 130: 1-2).
What are these depths of despair? They are deeper than gloom. They are deeper than the awareness of both sin and guilt. The psalmist was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s disapproval, God’s disfavor, God’s frown rather than God’s smile. He had sunk down into the depths of distance from God and darkness toward God.
He knew that God forgives, for he wrote in verse 4: “You offer forgiveness.” But he didn’t feel personally forgiven. He believed that God forgives sin, but he wasn’t all sure that God would forgive his sin. In fact, he felt forsaken by God. And that is a deep pit. He was crying out for God to rescue him from the depths of his God-forsakenness. Yet even as he gave voice to the struggle within, the psalmist broke through to hope: “O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. He Himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin” (130: 7-8).
Our greatest hope when we find ourselves in the depths of despair over our sin is that He himself will redeem us from every kind of sin. In fact, we can’t really welcome this redemption until we come to the place of true desperation. That was the problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day – they did not sense that they needed forgiveness or a Savior. God’s answer to every sinner’s desperate cry for forgiveness from God stood in front of them, and instead of rejoicing in Him, they rejected Him.
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” Jesus said (Mark 2: 17). Jesus did not come to help the righteous people fine-tune their righteousness, but to help sinners come back to God. It is through his finished work on the cross that we can come back to the smile of God. From the depths we cry out for help and are met with forgiveness through Christ.
If we were not too far from his help when we were lost sinners, then we are certainly not too far from his help as his redeemed children. Let us hold back nothing from Him and know that he will hear every prayer. Let us take everything to the foot of the cross and encounter God’s smile.
Prayer – Long before I knew to call out to you for forgiveness, you were calling me to yourself, offering yourself to me. You have heard my cry and answered, and so I put my hope in you forever.
“He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day; and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’”
Luke 24: 46-47
John 16: 7-11
There are many recorded ‘famous last words’ of remarkable people in humankind’s history. I smile sadly at the poignant humour of the British-Irish comedian Spike Milligan who, as part of his epitaph, had recorded on his gravestone the words, “I told you I was ill.” Jesus is THE most remarkable man ever so His last words should be considered extremely carefully. There are a good number of His words recorded in the Gospels and Acts post resurrection and prior to His ascension. The verses detailed above are of crucial importance.
Jesus spoke these words in an encounter with His disciples where He confirmed the reality of death’s defeat, explaining how His resurrection was the fulfillment of Scripture and exactly what He had said would happen. This the means of God’s salvation plan, the mission of reconciliation. Jesus went on to say that this Good News would be spread amongst the nations but notice His very important ‘famous last words’ within His statement; repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached. He is not telling His disciples, and therefore us, to judge, convict or condemn others or ourselves for our sin and failings. He is telling us to preach forgiveness.; to firstly know Jesus. On Monday we considered the deep love of our Prodigal Father God who will run to us with open arms when we repent and turn back to Him. Jesus is the means by which we enter that embrace; He paid the price for our sins and paved the way for forgiveness.
In our western culture of individualism there is a contradiction of acceptance that quickly turns to condemnation when an individual or idea does not match society’s current standards. What an incredible wonder we have to know that our creator does not want to condemn but to forgive. Please know I am not saying that evil should not be challenged, nor am I saying that a brother or sister in Christ should not be called out over sinful behavior. What I am saying is that Jesus calls us to preach forgiveness. He tells us that the conviction of sin is within the Holy Spirit’s remit. Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit has a threefold ministry to convict: the world of its sin; of the need for Christ’s righteousness; and of an accountability that awaits all of us (John 16: 8-11). So let us preach the good news; repentance for the forgiveness of sins; let us preach Jesus. Encouragement towards life works far better than condemnation that leads to death.
To Ponder: What do you condemn yourself or others for? Do you naturally want to speak condemnation rather than forgiveness? Real forgiveness is truly liberating; how might you or others be freed by God’s love?
We will be considering the deep truth of ‘no condemnation in Christ’ on Sunday 12th July at 9.30am when we look at Romans 8: 1-11
Prayer: Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts whereby we call you Father: give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that we may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God now and forever. Amen
I heard the voice of Jesus say
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mXMQqiLW9c
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMn0QNdiuGE
Bible Verse: “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”. “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water”. “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:25-33.
I have a friend in California with whom I often correspond. He, too, occasionally speaks at his church. One day he and I were messaging back and forth about the difficulty of remaining positive during these very uncertain times. As we were texting, I was reminded of one of my favourite TV shows from a few years ago called “Canada’s Worst Driver”. People were nominated by their friends or loved ones to go on the show to help them improve their truly abysmal driving skills. At the start of the show, these drivers would get into a shiny new car to compete in various driving challenges. Before each challenge, they would get help and instructions from professionals in order to help them maneuver through the course. Then I would sit there cringing at the sound of paint scraping on concrete and metal being tortuously bent out of shape. My favourite segment was when they tried to negotiate a tight course between Styrofoam obstacles. Repeatedly, they would plow through foam mannequins and destroy foam archways with dramatic effect.
Then the trainers would explain their problem: we human beings have a tendency to go where we are looking. Our natural instinct is to focus on the problem at hand, in this case the Styrofoam archway, but this results in the car hitting the danger far more often than avoiding it. Once the drivers learned to look away from the obstacles and look for the opening, they repeated the challenge and the difference was stunning. With this simple change in focus, most participants completed the course perfectly.
That was Peter’s problem, too, in the verse from Matthew 14. When he was focused on Jesus, he was able to do what no man had ever done before, which was to walk on top of the water. Out of the fury of the storm, the wind and waves lashing at Peter, Jesus said “Come”. Focusing on Christ alone, Peter stepped out of the boat and walked towards Jesus. But like most of us, his attention eventually strayed to the storm boiling around him, and he took his eyes off Jesus. At that point, Peter began to sink, and he called out to Jesus to rescue him.
Too often, many of us are just like those pitiful drivers or like Peter. We go about our lives dealing with the problems or challenges that we all face daily, trying to do it in our own strength and wisdom. We see the problems pile one on top of the other, and it seems like no matter how hard we struggle to overcome them, there is yet another bill to pay, another argument to settle, another doctor to see. Our anxieties mount, our confidence lags, and we feel overwhelmed by the storms of life.
But Jesus says, “Come”. Never mind the walls and the obstacles. Never mind the wind and the waves. “Come”. Focus your eyes on Him and He will help you deal with the uncertainties, the vagaries, and the challenges of life. When you feel overwhelmed and sinking, call out to Him and He will reach out His hand and land you safely in the boat. Thanks be to our Lord and Saviour!
In 2024, 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.