Monday, 30 November 2015

Teamwork - Sunday 29th November 2015

We tend to think of Jesus as a lone worker, but the first thing he did when he began his ministry was to gather a team around him. Apart from when he went off alone to pray, he always took a team with him.
Jesus’ ministry was built on teamwork. When he sent out his disciples to extend the mission that he had begun, he sent them in pairs. This was not a task for solitary missioners. At his last supper,  he reminded his apostles that their mission would only be effective if they loved one another as he had loved them - hence, if they worked together well.
This dynamic can be seen in the early years of the Christian church. Peter paired up John, and Paul always worked in a partnership or a team.
Being a Christian is not a solo operation. We need each other, and we need to work together. We need to pool our talents and our resources. We would be wise to following Jesus’ example and work together in teams whenever possible, so we can support and encourage each other.
Last Sunday, we launched a 5 year vision plan for St Catherine’s called “Moving Forwards”. This is the fruit of several months of thinking, praying and discussion by the Church Council. We will only manage to move forwards fruitfully if we consciously and deliberately work together.
Jesus chose Peter, James and John; Paul chose Silas, Luke and Timothy; who would you choose for your partners in Christian service?

Monday, 23 November 2015

Choosing to die - Sunday 22nd November 2015

There were a lot of people in Jerusalem who saw Jesus as a threat to their careers. When the Sadducees, the Herodians and the Pharisees all discovered they faced a common threat, they joined forces to eliminate Jesus in order to preserve their own political prospects.
That opposition was largely centred on Jerusalem. All Jesus needed to do was to avoid Jerusalem and he would have been reasonably safe.
He could have travelled, like St Paul did, and taken his message to the many Jewish communities of the Roman Empire. To have done so would have fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies. But he didn’t take that path.
He could have chosen to raise an army to take over Jerusalem by force, and restore the kingdom of his ancestor, David. That also would have fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies. He didn’t take that path either.
Jesus chose to walk into Jerusalem and present himself to the people conspiring to kill him. There was only one likely outcome - his death.
Why did he do that?
Jesus’ whole life had been a public demonstration of the nature of God. If we can begin to understand why Jesus chose to die, we will begin to understand God.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Anyone can do it - Sunday 15th November 2015

At the start of Jesus' ministry, he selected and trained 12 ‘apostles' to go out and spread his message. He didn’t send the apostles out to tell people about himself. He sent them to do the very same things that he himself was doing: "to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick."
At the end of his ministry, Jesus took a further, bolder step. He sent out a much wider group of people - 72 of them - with exactly the same task and instructions. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” These latter missioners had received little training. Indeed, Jesus deliberately sent them out ill equipped, saying, "I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals.” He had come to realise that his message was so simple it didn’t require experts.
The shift from the 12 to the 72 is significant. Jesus’ mission was no longer a task for the selected few, it was a task for anyone who made themselves available.
Our task as Christians is neither to worship Jesus nor promote the Christian brand. Our task as Christians is to continue the work that Jesus started: calling people back to God's love, showing them and telling them how much they are loved.
Anyone can do it.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Actions speak louder - Sunday 8th November 2015

Jesus presented himself to the world as a teacher. His subject was, the ’stuff' of God. (Living in a highly politicised culture with complex political structures, he spoke of it as God’s ‘kingdom’.)
As all good teachers know, actions speak louder than words. Jesus knew this too. So, on various occasions he chose to do something, rather than say anything.
One such moment was his arrival in Jerusalem in the final week of his life. Aware that his ‘kingdom’ metaphor was being misunderstood, and that people wanted to make him their actual king, Jesus arranged to ride into the city seated on a donkey. His entirely visual message proclaimed: ‘Yes, I may be a king, but I am absolutely not the kind of king that you are imagining. God comes in humility, not in power.’
As a general rule, the people around us do not want to be preached at. So when it comes to proclaiming the God’s forgiving love, we do well to use actions rather than words.
If we try to tell people what God is like, they will tend to shrink from the religious nature of the conversation, or get locked into theoretical arguments. So let us, instead, show people what God is like. When they find themselves loved and forgiven they will begin to understand.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Jesus' personal life - Sunday 1st November 2015

Most people’s mental image of Jesus shows a man who was generally alone and rather aloof. This impression has emerged from the Church’s repeated focus on Jesus’ divinity over and above his humanity.
But what about Jesus’ personal life.
Jesus' family (his mother and brothers) were actively involved in his ministry on a number of occasions. In John 7, his brothers gave him advise on how to conduct his mission. Initially Jesus declined their advise, but on reflection he followed it. Soon after Jesus’ death, his brother James became one of the leaders of Christian Church. He can’t have appeared from nowhere. It seems that Jesus shared his ministry with his family.
Jesus also had friends. John 11 and 12 show us that Lazarus and his two sisters were close friends of Jesus. It is very likely that Jesus routinely stayed with them whenever he was visiting Jerusalem.
It matters that we appreciate Jesus’ ordinary human side because that was the idea of his incarnation: God became one of us.
It also matters because Jesus wants to be a part of our personal life. He extends an invitation to each of us to be his sibling or his friend. (Mark 3:35, John 15:14)
Jesus does not wish to be our ‘Lord’ he wishes to be our brother or our friend.