Luke 8: 26-39... ( Sermon 1: A Man Called Mob)
1 Kings 19:1-4 & 8-15a (Sermon 2: Down But Not Out)
As the wild deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God
We have come together to strengthen our love and our worship of the living God.
Our corporate worship is a sharing of faith and expectation..
We also bring our own unique and private joys, anxieties, memories and hopes.
Our worship includes secrets known to God alone.
We gather with a common status as the children of one loving three-person’d God.
Our worship unites a scattered family.
We offer our varied gifts and resources to the one common Saviour.
Our worship is a fellowship in the one body of Christ.
We gather in the presence of the Holy Spirit, where each soul may better know itself, understand its neighbour, and slake its thirst on God’s love.
Our worship is a searching and finding, a loving and adoring.
Without God we are small boats on a wide sea without compass or rudder,
tossed to and fro without purpose or hope.
O send out your light and your truth, let them lead me,
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling place.
God alone can fulfil the deep desire of the human heart.
In Christ, you are all children of God, through faith.
Then we will turn to the altar of God,
to God our exceeding joy.
Let us worship the living God.
Most wonderful God, although the immense universe cannot contain your glory, you come to us not as a stranger but as a friend.
Please speak each of our names today, that we may be called away from the prattle of the world which threatens to swamp our true identity.
Name each of us, so that we may truly know ourselves and take responsibility for our own lives and live boldly and lovingly. Through Christ our Lord.
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE
My friends, true confession is not often an easy or comfortable thing. Sometimes God needs to discomfort or hurt us so that we might be healed. Today I ask you to allow a verse ( if my memory serve me right) from the 17th century poet John Donne call you to repentance:
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
Most faithful God, we admit to you and to each other that our deeds rarely match our good intentions, nor do our intentions measure up to our creeds
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
We have named you as Abba, Father, yet we do not live like your gracious children.
We have named Christ as Saviour, but have not consistently lived like the redeemed.
We have named you the everpresent Holy Spirit, but often we live as though you were at the other end of the universe.
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
Please continue to have mercy on us. Forgive us from our all dallying or rebelling. Recall us to our true creeds, and let these creeds penetrate deep within the factory of our goals and motives, so that from the depths of our being we may be inspired to love and serve you.
For Christ’s sake.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
God can be utterly trusted. No fret!
If God through Christ says that your sins are forgiven, then they certainly are!
The saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with you all.
And also with you
PRAYER FOR CHILDREN
When I Feel Small
when I am in a big crowd
I feel very small
and often shy.
Please remind me, will you,
that you are bigger than any crowd,
you are bigger than the world,
and yet you are my best Friend
and are never shy to say so.
From “Prayers for Aussie Kids”
Ó B D Prewer & Open Book Publishers.
See “More Australian Psalms” page 96
Ó Open Book Publishers.
OR verses 1-5 -:
Like a feral donkey in the Outback,
thirsting for a water hole in the dry creek bed,
so my dry soul thirsts for more of you,
O my loving yet elusive God!
My soul burns with thirst for God,
to know the living God on my journey;
when shall I arrive at my destiny
and glimpse the face of God?
Day and night I cry out aloud
yet taste nothing but my own salty tears;
and all the while the voices of my doubts taunt,
“Where is this God of yours?”
I try to remember those better days
when I went along eagerly to church;
I even led the procession into God’s house
singing hosannas with the massed congregation.
So why am I so depressed right now?
Why is my soul so at odds with itself?
I will rest all my hopes in my living God;
for I will once more sing praises to the One
who is the light on my face and my God!
Ó B D Prewer 2003 and 2012
TO THE MANY FOLK
WHOSE NAME IS LEGION
He comes as one unknown
upon our rocky shore
planting no imperious boot,
just asking: What is your name?
He comes as one unsought
among our mobbing fears
not stamping any foot;
simply asking: What is your name?
He come as one unlikely
between the powerful voices
not pushing any code;
just asking: What is your name?
He comes as one unfeared
through crowed judgments
offering no added burden;
assuring: What is your name?
He comes as one unconfined
midst our imprisonments,
imposing no new fetters,
saying: What is your name?
He comes as one unafraid
among our cold, grey tombs
where scant hopes remain;
treasuring each one’s name.
from “Beyond Words”.
© B.B. Prewer & JBCE
God our most holy Friend, in you we place our trust. May the Spirit of our humble Teacher
garrison our faith against the mob of temptations around us, and rescue us from the mob of doubts that rise up from within us. We ask this through Christ Jesus our Saviour.
SERMON 1: A MAN CALLED MOB
Jesus then asked him: “What is your name?”
“My name is Mob” [legion], he answered, for many demons had entered him.
As always, Jesus is remarkably sensitive to a individual and his acute need. If you wish to treat a person with respect, you need to use their name. If you don’t know it, you politely ask for it.
Examples: an adult meeting a lost child
ambulance officer bending over a collapsed woman
minister trying to help a distressed stranger after a funeral
Our name and identity are entwined; something of the essence of a person is awakened at the sound of their name. We like it when people remember our name, but get annoyed if they repeatedly forget it or mispronounce it. It’s even worse if they keep calling us by the wrong name.
When they get it right, using it for communication not exploitation, with respect not with a patronising tone, then we purr like a tabby cat.
Jesus “knew what was in the heart of people”. He understood our needs. In asking that deranged fellow who lived in a cemetery “What is your name” Jesus was expressing two things:
I/. You matter. As a unique person . You are a precious person not a just a client.
2/ Will you trust me with your name? That is, give me a little power over you so I can help you.
“My name is Mob”, (Legion) the fellow replied. Many demons. Many voices all trying to tell him what to do. Pulled this way and that. Not knowing his own mind. A soul in torment.
A vivid picture of human misery: The poor fellow living naked, wild and uncontrollable,
living among the tombs. A cemetery was the safest place for this man: He had nothing
to fear from the dead--- it was the living whom he feared.
The dead did not bully him, coax him, scorn him, or chain him.
It was the living who did that stuff.
We are not so different. Many voices pulling and shoving, wheedling or shouting,
being eminently reasonable or emotionally manipulative. A mob of voices.
As well as relatives, friends, and the influential people at work, there are the mob voices
projected by the mass media, all trying to get a piece of us.
Many people don’t know who they are any more. But are too proud to admit their need
or seek help. Until they seek help, they cannot be helped.
If, like the man in this Gospel story, we are able to identify the problem: “My name is Mob” then we have taken the first small step towards sanity.
Where do you go for help?
There are insecure folk who rush from religion to religion, sect to sect, guru to guru. They look for an authority to put down the mob within them and take charge. Some of these, even some of exceptionally high intellect, opt for a religion which sees things as either white or black (no greys) or put their hope in a dictatorial guru.
Other people, in an angry attempt to salvage their identity, swap the name “Mob” for the name “Anti-Mob”. They react by trying to go against the voices. They become the ubiquitous protesters- against everybody and anything.
“Mrs Anti-Mob” is no more free than is poor old Mr Mob. They are still allowing the many voices to set the agenda- by just being negative they are like shadow puppets. They still do not really know what, or who, they are.
This man came good.
The man on the far bank of Lake Galilee was most fortunate. He was visited by a Healer who treated him with profound respect. A fellow did not try to impose some new agenda but only sought the person’s well being.
Jesus, that supreme reader tangled situations tormented souls, was able to set him free of the multiple demons. The divine Healer did his thing again.
I would like to know more. We don’t know the detailed story of that meeting between Mr Mob and Jesus. How long did Jesus spend with the poor fellow? We are not told. What secrets came tumbling out? We have no record.
We do know the result: People went to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.”
That is the kind of thing that happens when Jesus is brought into the picture.
My personal story.
Each of our personal stories have unique aspects, because Jesus deals with each of us as precious, unique souls.. But in common we know that this Jesus has asked our name, dealt wonderfully with us, banished the voices and given us back to ourselves.
Many, many short years ago (they become shorter the older I become!) when I was a young man, I tried to take charge of my life and live as a kindly agnostic. But it did not work. I was constantly subject to the pressures of others. Voices pulled me this way and that. Sometimes I would assert myself. More often I either lost the plot, either giving in or over reacting. The integrity I tried to establish at the core of my being was in disarray. I became my own version of the man called mob. Repeatedly I was discouraged and aghast at myself.
Thankfully I had not become anywhere near as deranged as the poor fellow in the Gospel story. But in a sense I shared his name My head was crowded. I didn’t live in a cemetery, but I had reached a stage were the dead bodies of my good intentions rotted around me. And in spite of all my outward bravado and laugher with mates, I was miserable at the core.
The Man of Nazareth altered all that. And not for one hour, not one minute, not one moment, have I regretted it. I took the biggest risk of my life and gave myself unreservedly to Jesus Christ. It was as if my torn and fractured being had been put together again. I lost myself to Christ yet found myself. I took on a spiritual Master yet found my freedom. The paradox of true liberty became mine:
Nothing has changed
Where Jesus is concerned, nothing has changed. Still this same Jesus, the healer extraordinaire, whose life transcends the centuries, arrives on our shore. He asks all bewildered souls: : “What is your name?”
What word would best describe the state of your life? What is your name?
Will you trust him with your real identity?
SERMON 2: DOWN BUT NOT OUT
I Kings 19:4-5a
Elijah hiked a day’s journey out into the desert. He sat down under a mulga tree and wished he were dead. He said, “I’ve had enough, God! Let me die! I have done no better than my predecessors.” Then he lay down and slept under the tree.
There are various levels and forms and causes of mental depression.
When in this sermon I talk about feeling down,
or depressed, I am not speaking of severe, prolonged, clinical depression. Such depression has levels of anxiety and angst, sheer anguish and monumental sadness of the soul. Other people, who may sometimes say ‘I feel very down in the dumps; I’m depressed.’ can never understand the torture of such clinical depression..
Today I am going to focus today on a lessor, yet still painful, form of depression.
A depression that is a part of the common life experience. Especially so when we seem to have been ineffective or defeated in our efforts to serve God and his Christ.
AN ANCIENT MALADY
This kind of depression is not new.
Maybe it has always been a part of human experience. Certainly in Bible times is was present.
Look at that rugged servant of God named Elijah.
In spite of all his efforts, over many years, wickedness still rode arrogantly through the land. He had suffered setback after setback. In today’s Bible reading his own life was under threat from Jezebel, the fiendish wife of king Ahab.
When he was younger he may not have thought things could go so wrong.,
Like most of us when he was young, I reckon he hoped to do better than those prophets who had preceded him. But as a middle aged man, sitting under a tree out there in the desert, he felt he had been a failure; at least as much as failure as those well meaning predecessors of his.
What was the use of it all?
He had given his best. But his best was not enough. Evil still ruled. Elijah did not want to go on . However he certainly did not want Jezebel to enjoy the satisfaction of killing him. So he wished God would take him while he slept. Yes, that’s a good way to die; while he slept. Millions pray for that bonus.
But God had not finished with him yet. No by a long chalk.
OUR EFFORTS SEEM WASTED.
It’s much the same for many contemporary believers.
Especially for those who have travelled the long road and see how little (to the human eye) they have achieved. In the years of middle age, and beyond, it is not uncommon to become despondent.
The younger Christian is usually optimistic.
They delight in the joy of faith in Christ, and are ready to take on the whole world. The youthful are convinced that if we would only shake evil hard enough (evangelism, social justice, and all that) much of evil will inevitably collapse.
Rarely are things as simple as that.
Those of mature years have given it their best shot and have failed to see the big results they hoped and prayed for.
We do have every reason to feel downhearted at times.
Agents of greed and corruption exist everywhere, many flaunting themselves. Inequalities and injustice proliferate. No sooner is one evil given a cracking blow and crushed, than a dozen more evils seem to sprout up out of the dust.
Our world can be a very nasty and unrepentant place.
Many have thrown their energies into effecting creative changes, but with limited success. It is not that good and capable people have not tried hard enough. They have. But the world seems determined to self destruct.
WAYS OF DEALING WITH THE NEGATIVES
Some may try to avoid feeling depressed by shutting their eyes to the evil.
These erect social or religious fences, protecting their own little patch, while doing nothing about righting wrongs in the larger sphere.
Or some may opt for religious effervescence with little content.
Others retreat into a spirituality of pious solitude, or huddle together in self righteous sects, keeping “pure” while damning the rest of humanity.
A number of bruised souls scrap the whole notion of God and love and purpose in life,
and choose a hard cynical approach; wringing out of each situation and each person , as much of the juice of fleeting pleasure as they can.
THE BIBLICAL WAY
Or we can be like Elijah and Jeremiah, orthe writer of Psalm 42, and Jesus of Nazareth. We can give our very best to God’s service in this world and for this world. Holding nothing back. Of course we are likely to suffer numerous defeats. We may at times find ourselves depressed by the scant evidence of success, yet we keep pressing forward.
Even the greatest believers had to struggle. The strong souls experienced dark times. Even the strongest of all- that man from Nazareth- had “downers.”
Like Elijah we may complain:
“I wish I were dead. I’m no better than my predecessors.”
Or perhaps like Jeremiah we mutter: “Cursed be the day on which I was born.
Or like the Psalm writer we complain: “My tears have been my meat night and day, while they continually say unto me: Where is your God?” ‘
Or like Jesus one evening beside lake Galilee.
When the crowds had taken offence and drifted away, he turned to his disciples and in a melancholy voice asked: “Will you also go away?”
However Jesus, and thousands of other less notable yet sincere souls,
refused to surrender to apathy or despair in spite of grave setbacks, or their personal disappointments and sufferings.
A HEALTHY DEPRESSION
I would claim that thsi is a healthy depression,
which many a true follower of Jesus may feel from time to time. How can it be otherwise?
How can we live for Christ in this disjointed and crazed world and sometimes not get discouraged.? It is natural to feel down. Down, but not out.
From the down-and-almost-out position, we can regroup.
Like Elijah we can continue to obey God in the face of adversity. It is a matter of “trust and obey.”
Please don’t give way to the ogre of despair or its evil sister, indifference. Our God is a God of resurrection. Of resurgent life.
We cannot follow Christ’s way of love without experiencing setbacks. But we have no right to allow things to get on top of us, crush us, or embitter us. If we attempt that, we will ourselves end up just another one of life’s casualties, sorely dependent on others.
DON'T WASTE THE EXPERIENCE
We should not dodge or waste the hard experiences.
We of all people should understand that out of pain God brings growth, and from defeat God brings victory. I have said I think there is a sane, healthy type of depression: the sorrow of seeing things through the eyes of Christ. It is okay to feel the pain of discouragement, to feel some depression, but not to wallow in being down, not to sideline ourselves out of the game because of our moods.
Elijah. still obeyed God, even though he was feelings extremely low.
Obedience is the way forward. Not down-sizing our faith, but trusting it more profoundly. Elijah was fed and encouraged by God through the wilderness, and then up on the rugged mountain.. Up there he was shown the way forward by God. Crossing deserts and climbing mountains are never easy. When God sets us one to cross or climb, have a go! Don’t sit under your equivalent of a tree in the desert and wish you were dead. Get up and get going. It is the only way to fulfilment.. It’s worth the effort.
STICK WITH JESUS
What about Jesus? He kept moving ahead.
No matter what his moods and feelings were he kept faith. Moved on. Even towards the end, when that awesome “downer” flooded over him in the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus trusted and faced the next step. On the cross he reached the absolute bottom of the black pit and cried aloud “My God, my God, which have you forsaken me!” Yet a little later he finished his mission saying: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” His faith, riven with grief right into the final darkness, led directly to God and the light of resurrection.
Stick with Jesus and his Gospel,
We may enjoy some delightful ups, and endure some painful downs, but we will never be out. Never out. Never! Never out!
I would wager my life on that, won’t you?
Wonderful, wonderful, ever wonderful!
Are you, faithful Friend of the earth!
We give thanks and celebrate you Presence
among all things and in all things,
giving meaning and hope at all times.
Yet even more we give thanks and celebrate
that you are above all,
and far beyond all,
calling us to reach beyond
the things that perish
to that unspeakable glory
which is to come.
Wonderful is your purpose
and wonderful is your true Agent,
Christ Jesus our Saviour.
Ó B D Prewer 2003 & 2012
For other people, close to us or far off,
let us pray.
Wherever people spend their days like puppets with a legion of string-pullers, losing their own sense of worth and purpose.
Let your life come in its fullness, loving Liberator.
Wherever some have lost contact with reality, and suffer mental torments through every hour of each day.
Let your life come in its fullness, loving Healer.
Wherever some are at last breaking free and taking the first steps towards independence of mind and spirit.
Let your life come in its fullness, loving Encourager.
Wherever human beings are physically restrained but remain mentally tough and spiritually and mentally free.
Let your life come in its fullness, loving Inspirer.
Wherever they seek a reliable friend, or healer, comforter, adviser, teacher or a sure Redeemer.
Let your life come in its fullness, loving Counsellor.
Wherever people suffer the indignities of poverty, the loneliness of misunderstanding, or the crushing brutality or war;
Let your life come in its fullness, loving Saviour
Wherever the members of your church have traded liberty for legalism, or the living Truth for dogma, or trust for religious fears;
Let your life come in its fullness, loving God.
God of liberty, enable us to enter more completely in to the kingdom of love which has been waiting for us from the beginning of time.
Through Christ, in Christ, for Christ, we so pray.
Those who demand to be given complete faith before following it, will remain in the shadows, wistful yet empty.
But those who put their little faith into action, shall come to know more than eye has seen, or the ear heard, or the mind conceived.
Go, therefore my friends, go out into the world in faith. The more you use it the more you will have, to the glory of the One who called and nurtured you.
The peace of God, the peace of human trust,
the peace of the Word , the peace of the church,
the peace of Mary, Andrew, and John,
the peace of Christ the Prince of tenderness.
Yes, the peace of Christ, Prince of tenderness,
Be with you on the road,
Yes, be with you on the road.
(From a Celtic prayer)
My Best Mate, (first edition 2013)
ISBN 978-1-937763-78-7: AUSTRALIA:
ISBN : 978-1-937763-79- 4: USA
Third edition May 2014
ISBN 978-1-62880-033-3 Australia
Jesus Our Future
Prayers for the Twenty First Century
Second Edition May 2014
|Although this book was written with young people in mind, it has proved to be popular with Christians or seekers of all ages. Through the eyes and ears of a youth named Chip, big questions are raised and wrestled with; faith and doubt, unanswered prayers, refugees, death and grief, racism and bullying, are just a few of the varied topics confronted in these pages. Suitable as a gift to the young, and proven to be helpful when it has been used as a study book for adults.||
Australian Prayers has been a valuable prayer resource for over thirty years. These prayers are suitable for both private and public use and continue to be as fresh and relevant today as ever. Also, the author encourages users to adapt geographical or historical images to suit local, current situations.
This collection of original, contemporary prayers is anchored firmly in the belief that no matter what the immediate future may hold for us, ultimately Jesus is himself both the goal and the shape of our future. He is the key certainty towards which the Spirit of God is inexorably leading us in this scientific and high-tech era. Although the first pages of this book were created for the turn of the millennium, the resources in this volume reflect the interests, concerns and needs of our post-modern world.