SUNDAY 11

 

12-18 June

 

Matthew 9: 35 to 10: 8                          (Sermon 2: “Doing the Jesus Thing”)

Romans 5:1-8

Genesis 18:1-15

            or 21:1-7 (used here)                 (Sermon 1: “The Unlikely Achievers”)

Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19.

 

PREPARATION

 

We gather to give our worth-ship to God.

 

God is a three letter word behind which extends a radiant Wonder of love, mercy and truth.

If we employed all the best words from all the languages of the earth we would not have voiced but the faint whispers of God’s wonder.

Yet those whispers heard clearly in Christ Jesus, make all the difference between joy and misery, alienation and reconciliation, serenity and despair, life and death.

 

To worship this wonderful (though largely hidden) God we have arrived, not being wise or adequate worshippers, yet wanting  to getb close to doing some justice to  such endearing Love and light and holy joy.

 

OR

 

Then good humour of Messiah Jesus be with you all.

And also with you.

 

Worship is our business here.

Worth-ship.

The worth-ship of God.

The praise of the awesome, holy Friend

revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ..

 

What shall we give to God

            for all the gifts showered upon us?

We will lift up the cup of salvation

            and call upon the name of the Lord.

 

We will pay our vows now, here,

            in the presence of God’s people,

In the courts of the house of the Lord,

            within your walls, O city of God.

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

O majestic Lover of humanity, we come to you gratefully, for you have not left us like orphans in a cold universe but embraced us through Christ Jesus. You call us to be his sisters and brothers and joint-heirs in the kingdom of your love. You who have blessed us so remarkably, please bless us again as we bow before you. May our worship clear our smudged vision, liberate our stodgy spirits, and uplift our lives in joyful praise. Through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen!

 

CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

 

God’s warm and generous invitation leads  us as to confess our faults and                                          folly.

 

 Let us pray.

 

Holy Friend,

because we did not create ourselves,

because we do not understand ourselves,

because we cannot reconcile ourselves,

we come to you

for Divine help.

 

Merciful God, Creator and Redeemer,

you know us completely and love us utterly.

There is not a thought or feeling,

word, action, memory or hope,

that you do not see and understand.

Please forgive our sins and remove our shame,

heal our dis-eases and redress our distortions,

reinforce our faith and enlarge our love.

Let all that is true, beautiful and compassionate

find a new lease of life in our character.

For your name’s sake.

Amen.

 

It is written: Christ Jesus did not arrive in this world to condemn us,

but that the world through him might be rescued and healed.

His word gives me the confidence to declare to you, my sisters and brothers,

the forgiveness of sins and the liberty of the children of God.

Thanks be to God.

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

You know me, God,

you know all about me.

You see how I like blaming others

when things get messy and go wrong.

Please help me to stop dodging

and to start accepting responsibility.

Let me, like Jesus, take control

and not allow sneaky or sour thoughts

to boss me around any more.

In the name of Jesus, I pray,

because he knows what it is like

to be a child like me.

Amen!

 

PSALM 116: 1-2 & 12-19

 

            See  More Australian Psalms page 140

                        Ó Open Book Publishers

           

 

TAKE  AUTHORITY

 

                        Matt 10:1

 

I give you authority

to take responsibility:

            out there in the ruck

            where Satan excels

            at passing the buck.

 

Take this my authority

over contemporary spirits:

            rank opportunism

            moral vacuity

            insipient cynicism.

 

Employ this authority

over national diseases:

            raw market forces

            indigenous neglect

            wasted resources.

 

Take up my authority

for your own destiny:

            over fate and fear

            evil and tragedy

            suffering and despair.

 

Take then authority

to be God’s family:

            good friends of the earth

            bearers of shalom

            heralds of God’s mirth.

                                                                                          © B.D. Prewer 1999

 

           

COLLECT

 

Most loving God, because your love is for all classes and races,

you call not only the very gifted people but common folk like us

to be Christ’s disciples and to share the good news.

Please govern our unruly feelings and dissident thoughts,

that with a single devotion to you we may be your heralds

in a world longing for much better news

than that which fascinates and saturates the media.

Through Christ Jesus, the Joy of the universe!

Amen!

 

SERMON 1: THE UNLIKELY ACHIEVERS

 

Genesis 21: 1-7

 

I had the privilege of conducting the funeral of a Christian woman who at the age of 19 years was diagnosed with cancer and had received radical surgery. At the age of 21 once more she had extensive surgery and her doctors sadly informed her that she only a few months to live. They got it wrong. She was in her 87th year when she died. In between she bore children, buried her husband while he was relatively young, raised her family, threw herself into numerous philanthropic activities, and ran a boarding house for social misfits right up to her 85th year. She died of the same cancer that she first contracted when aged 19.

 

I put it to you that the God we worship is One who achieves the unlikely through unlikely people.

 

AN UNLIKELY FAMILY TREE

 

Let’s move to the story of another woman: to Sarah whose husband was that wonderful old fool of faith, the legendary Abraham, through whom God did a most unlikely thing.

 

In response to God, this mother and father of faith “went out not knowing where they would end up.”

 

Together with their extended family and servants and flocks, they left the security of their land of birth and by faith journeyed south in search of a new land and a new future. (In some way, not unlike our own ancestors, only they travelled cramped up in little sailing ships across treacherous seas to make it to Terra Australis. Abraham moved slowly by foot, camping and grazing his flocks as they went.)

 

Last week we heard how Abraham believed in a God who promised that his descendants would become a great nation, even though Sarah was barren, and Abraham was elderly when he commenced the long journey to the south.

 

Over twenty years later, Abraham now a very old man and Sarah long past the age of conceiving and carrying a child. Yet God renewed the promise and sent three messengers to speak with Abraham: Sarah would soon give birth. The message was overheard by Sarah. She laughed at the very idea. That laughter became the name that Abraham and Sarah were told to give to their son: Isaac, which means ‘he laughs” or “laugher”.  (By the way, a comforting word to you older women, or should I say ‘more mature’ women: Don’t take fright in what happened to Sarah. I think you can assume it was a one off event!)

 

In today’s reading the story continues with the word of God being fulfilled:

            And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, just as at that time God had             spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son whom Sarah gave to him Isaac.

            Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said:             “God has made laughter for me. Every one who hears will laugh with me.”

 

So the family tree of Sarah and Abraham was launched. The God who does unlikely things was providentially at work.

 

GOD WORKS WITH MUD

 

I think it was Nikos Kazanzakis who wrote: “God is a potter. He works with mud.”

 

I find it encouraging that this God of the Bible does the unlikely, not just with people of outstanding gifts (like Isaiah who was a learned adviser at the court of the King, or later, Paul who was extremely well educated with a brilliant intellect) but also with ordinary people. God works with common clay; mud like us.

 

Abraham was no genius or saint. As case in point, to save his own hide he at least on one occasion treated Sarah despicably. His son Isaac is not recorded as having any great qualities; rather a boring man in fact. In the next generation Isaac’s son Jacob seems to have been a persistent lover as he waited 14 years to marry Rachel, but he was also a rather slippery character.  And that is how the story of the family tree of Abraham, the Jewish tribe and later nation, continues. God uses ordinary people with faults that could have come from our next door neighbour, or maybe faults that emanate from that person we see eye to eye when we look in a mirror.

 

I find this most encouraging.  You don’t have to be a genius or a saint to be used by God for the blessing of this world. The God who achieves the unlikely, often uses very flawed material with which to work.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE UNSUNG SAINTS?

 

Too many of the stories we preachers sometimes extol as role models for the Christian life, come from people of outstanding gifts and mighty faith. They are the names the world hears about. The greater saints. They use their considerable gifts to achieve great things for the glory of God.  That is wonderful. But how can we identify with them?  We are not in their league!

 

Over the long years of the last century into this, I have heard sermonic anecdotes of well known Christians, held up as examples. They include names like Edith Cavell, Albert Schwietzer, Helen Keller, Deitrich Boenhoeffer, Kagawa, William Temple, Martin Luther King, George McLeod, Peter Marshall, Amy Carmichael, Billy Graham, John XXIII, Helda Camara, Desmond Tutu. Or from within Australia: Caroline Chisholm, Daisy Bates,  John Flynn,  Mary McKillop, Alfred Traeger, Eileen Joyce, Weary Dunlop, Dame Enid Lyons, Betty Cuthbert, Neville Bonner.

 

I thank God for them all.

 

But what about the unsung Christians? The humble and unsung saints? That wonderful band of ordinary lay people who maintain parishes through good times and hard, and who are also usually found to be key workers in community welfare and social justice agencies. They never make a headline, or even rate a mention in the small print. But that are God’s genuine children! Throughout my ministry I have met them, worked beside them, and been humbled and inspired by what they manage to do for the glory of God.

 

Also what about the host of ordinary ministers and priests who are never elevated to high office in the church, and never serve in one of the so-called “top parishes.” These to me are a great inspiration in my life, for they with either limited gifts or (in many cases) underutilised gifts, are used by God to achieve the unlikely in a myriad of crucial ways.

 

Among the ordinary Christians who have inspired me have also been those who have had acute emotional ‘hang ups’, idiosyncrasies, glaring inadequacies, or limited intellectual ability, yet they have been a blessing to others.

 

I delight in the paradox that the God who calls some to be a chosen people does to seem very “choosey” in the type of people that are chosen. Such is the God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. Without being in the least anti-Semitic, I can repeat the old two-liner with a lot of enthusiasm:

                                    “How odd of God

                                    to choose the Jews.”

(And with a slightly off-key rhyme, which seems singularly appropriate, I can also wonderingly say concerning myself:   How odd of God to choose Bruce.)

 

JESUS MAKES SOME QUIRKY CHOICES

 

This quirky way in which God appears to work, reaches its zenith in the Gospel stories. Today we read from Matthew how Jesus selected twelve key disciples:

            First Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thadaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

 

How odd! There does not appear to be one university graduate, or scholar, or priest, or town councillor, or village rabbi, or upper class dignitary among them. They are a rabble of nobodies.  I do not intend any insult to fishermen, but I think it can be fairly said that they are not a very pious breed, yet the first four choices were fishermen. And before long there was a greedy thug who collected taxes for the Roman occupying authority whom we know as Matthew.

 

It was people like this to whom Jesus entrusted his Gospel. It was these nobodies to whom he gave “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.”

 

Talk about a God who likes to achieve the unlikely by choosing the unlikely! To use the vernacular, it is obvious that Jesus is the “spitting image” of his Father!

 

SUMMARY

 

From Abraham to Amos to Jesus: the same God!

 

From Jesus to St Matthew to St Francis to William Booth and John Flynn: the same God!

 

From  Sarah who gave birth when she was elderly and called her son “Laughter,”  to a teenage kid called Mary who bore the shame of an unexpected pregnancy, to the Bulgarian peasant woman who became Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and to the woman with cancer whose story commenced my sermon: We see the same God at work.

 

From Abraham to Jesus, and to that face you see in your mirror, the same God!

 

This same God calls even unlikely types like you and me to be the unlikely source of blessing to the world around us. Right?

 

 

SERMON 2: JESUS AND HIS THING

 

Matthew 9:35 to 10: 8

 

 

DOING YOUR THING?

 

Words change meaning, or take on additional meaning.

 

Example? The word “thing.” When I was a student at university (in the olden days!) the most common use of the word “thing” just  meant some object.

 

Thing could be a stone (Careful! Don’t trip on that thing}

or a tea towel (Here take this thing and get busy. I’ve done my share)

or a motor car (This thing guzzles fuel at an alarming rate)

or maybe a living creature, such as a horse (I’ll never get the hang of riding this thing”

or at times even a person (What a stupid thing you have been!)

 

About 30 years ago there came a change. “Thing” also became the word for an emotion, an opinion, a way of life, a belief, and most commonly for a characteristic activity. As in “Doing my own thing” or “Get out of here and do your thing some where else.”

 

I well remember about three decades ago an older minister, who was in the passenger seat of my sedan, asking me: “Bruce, could you give me a English word that can be used instead of “thing” in the way kids use it today? My youngest daughter, Jane, was writing an essay last night. She asked me to check it. When I came upon her words, ‘Shakespeare had no equal, when it came do doing his thing.’ I commented: ‘You’ll have to do better than that. Find another word to replace ‘thing’.’ She retorted: ‘What other word, Dad? You give me one.’

You know, Bruce, I was stumped. I cannot think of a mainstream equivalent in English. Can you.”

I faced the challenge enthusiastically. But I was stumped... I could offer phrases to convey the same meaning, but no single word.  I came to the conclusion that our culture, especially youth culture, had indeed come up with another shorthand way of speaking which was hard to match. Incidentally, I noticed that my older friend was considerably chuffed that his much younger colleague could do no better than he.

 

THE JESUS THING

 

There and then I decided “thing” had a remarkable brevity about it. I began to think about the Jesus thing. Yes, the Jesus thing.  What was his thing? It was actively living the life of loving God and those around him, with characteristic love and good humour.

 

The Gospel of Matthew has a fine summary of the Jesus thing, at the end of chapter 9.

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and curing every infirmity.

            When he looked at the crowds, he had compassion for them. They were harassed and             dejected like sheep without a shepherd.

 

Compassion? Compassion is an essential element of the Jesus thing.

 

We need to understand that pity and compassion, like humility, were classed as serious faults in one’s character in the Greek-Roman world. The intellectual Greek spurned it as a crude regression into unenlightened human weakness, the Romans derided it as it as a flaw that would ruin a man’s precious dignitas. But Jesus practised compassion. He had compassion on the crowds that gathered around him, desperate for help and guidance...

            When he looked at the crowds, he had compassion for them. They were harassed and             dejected like sheep without a shepherd.

 

Trying to look at the crowds through the eyes of Jesus, I picture the common, down trodden people of the land huddled together like a flock under attack. Nowhere to turn, no one to protect them in their extreme vulnerability.

 

It was a part of his thing for Jesus to have compassion on them. His heart went out to them. He travelled around the Galilean region,  meeting the common people in open spaces or in towns and synagogues, teaching them the love of God, preaching the presence of God’s kingdom in their midst (a kingdom where each were precious citizens) and healing their diseases and curing their handicaps. This was the true Jesus thing.

 

            Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching the in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and curing every infirmity.

 

But genuine compassion comes at a cost. Often, after dealing with the crowds, Jesus felt drained and utterly exhausted. And finally his compassion for the common people cost him his life.

 

There is no true Christianity which does not share this Jesus thing.

 

DISCIPLES BECOME APOSTLES

 

Immediately after Matthew summarises the Jesus thing, he moves on to the sending out of the 12 disciples on their first mission. They are to go do the Jesus thing, to practice the deeds of love displayed by their Master.

 

Here, for the first time, the disciples are called apostles. Apostle, apostolos, in N T Greek meant an emissary, a person sent out on a mission with the authority of the sender behind them. The disciples cannot stay at the point of being learners in the school of Christ. The times comes when the disciples must become the practitioners. They become the ambassadors of Christ Jesus.

 

This first sending out was evidently not to be a protracted one. It was a quick whip around the countryside in order to awaken people to the good news.

 

The “marching orders” were not for each of them to “do their own thing” but to do the Jesus thing. Not their version of God but to spread the version Jesus taught and embodied.

Preach as you go, saying: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, heal the lepers, cast out the demons of the mind.”

 

SPREADING THE JESUS THING IS NOT EASY

 

The spreading of this Jesus thing was not always easy; not like throwing a handful of gold coins into a crowd. The going would get tough. Some homes and some towns would reject them. The message of Jesus never was and never will be universally popular in this world of arrogance, greed and delusion.  Some might misunderstand the Jesus thing, others will understand it well enough to know that it threatens their evil ways.

 

Jesus told his apostles; Do your best, go to everyone in peace. But if they will not receive you, shake the dust of that place off your feet and try elsewhere.

 

The apostles would be, sooner or later, not only scorned and rejected but also hounded and persecuted, just as their Lord had been. There was, and is, an inevitable vulnerability in those who try to live with and for Jesus. They would need all their native cunning to read the situations, and all their sincerity to be effective emissaries of the Jesus thing...

 

.           Look, I sent you out like sheep in the misdates of wolves. So be as wise as serpents and   as sincere as doves.”   [sincere: akeraios = unmixed, without vice or deceit]

 

Matthew does not tell us how fruitful the twelve apostles were on their first mission. We don’t know how well people received the Jesus thing when presented.

 

Success is most difficult to define. Reception of the gospel can be hampered by the closed minds of the recipients. For those first apostles some people would respond to the Jesus thing, others would reject it . 

 

OUR APOSTOLATE

 

We today are the sent out ones, the emissaries or apostles. It is not sufficient to be disciples, to be the learners. What we learn must be embodied in how we live each day.

 

All our lives we will remain disciples, learners in the school of Christ.  That should keep us humble as we take up the more difficult commision:      Look, I sent you out like sheep in the misdates of wolves. So be as wise as serpents and     as sincere as doves.”

 

 

I BELIEVE

 

At the dawn or at dusk, at noon or at midnight,

loving God I trust in you.

You are the longing in my soul and the rest in my being,

the strength in my arms and the skill in my hands,

 

In my doubts and my faith, in weakness or in strength,

loving Christ I trust in you.

You are the love in my spirit and the light in my eyes,

the bread in my mouth and the love in my heart.

 

Through success and failure, through loss and in renewal,

loving Spirit I trust in you.

You are the wisdom in my mind and the hope in my dreams,

the fire in my compassion and the wind on my face.

 

Creator and Sustainer,

Saviour and Teacher,

Counsellor and Instigator,

how wonderful is your name

in all the earth!

 

THANKSGIVING

 

Most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That by love we are the inheritors of the blessing of Abraham and Sarah:

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That by love we share the heritage of the prophets and the psalm writers:

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That by love we have been called by your Son Christ Jesus:

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That by love we participate in your ministry of reconciliation:

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That by love our small successes are multiplied and enhanced;

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That by love our failures are forgiven and dismissed:

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That by love we are surrounded by dear friends and loved ones:

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

That be love we have the encouragement of the saints and the martyrs:

most grateful are we, your dearly loved children;

most thankful are we, through all our days.

 

Praise: Tune “Doxology” Jimmy Owens (Sing Alleluia 72).

 

            Praise God our hope from first to last,

            Praise Christ whose strong arm holds us fast.

            Praise Holy Spirit our best Friend,

            Praise God our joy at journey’s end.

 

PRAYERS FOR OTHERS

 

Let us seek God’s merciful aid for the church and the world, for individuals and communities, for the famous and the obscure.

 

Let us pray.

 

For those who have power without the wisdom to use it well,

and for those who have wisdom without the power to apply it.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God make us into a blessing.

 

For people who want to learn but have no teacher,

and some who have much to teach but no one will listen to them.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God, make us into a blessing.

 

For those who have been forced to retire too early,

and for those who are overworked and long for retirement.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God, make us into a blessing.

 

For some people who are famous yet long for some privacy,

and some who are lonely and long for recognition and company.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God, make us into a blessing.

 

For those who are too tender-hearted and need to be toughened

and for those who are tough and need to be made gentle.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God make us into a blessing.

 

For the wounded and diseased who have inadequate care,

and for the pampered who turn ill health into an obsession.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God make us into a blessing.

 

For people who are dying with no one to mourn them,

and for those who mourn with no one to comfort them.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God, make us into a blessing.

 

For all who remain cheerful in the midst of poverty and grave handicap,

and for some who are disgruntled in spite of plenty and good health.

Holy Friend hear our prayer,

Loving God, make us into a blessing.

 

Holy Friend, you love all as one human family, yet deal with us individually

as if we were the only child you have. Please give to us your generous and practical spirit,

so that our prayers may be converted into deeds, day by day.

Through Christ Jesus our Redeemer.

Amen!

 

SENDING OUT

 

That you may take authority to travel in Christ’s name,

I bless you!

Amen!

 

Travel lightly,

lest under the weight of status and possessions

we come to a standstill.

 

Travel boldly,

for we are apostles of a Christ

who has overcome the worst the world can give.

 

Travel humbly,

for as friends of Jesus no service is too menial

and no person is  unworthy of help.

 

Travel joyfully,

for when the road is rough and the night dark

we shall never travel on our own.

 

The love of.........

 

 

 

 

 

** Additional resources on bruceprewer.com