2024-01-14. Sermon for Epiphany 2 by Rev’d Sharon Chalcraft
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our rock, and our redeemer.
An elderly lady walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps, handed her a hymn book and said, ‘follow me’, then proceeded to ask: “Where would you like to sit?”. “The front row please.” she answered. “You really don’t want to do that”, the usher said, “The pastor is really boring.” “Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman inquired. “No,” he said. “I’m the pastor’s mother,” she replied indignantly. As he was seating her at the front pew he said, “Do you know who I am?”. “No,” she said. “Good,” he answered.
We need to be careful who we follow.
That’s what I want us to look at this morning, following Jesus!
The very first verse of today’s Gospel we hear that Jesus finding Phillip says to him, “Follow me” . . . and he does! Then Phillip goes and finds Nathanial and says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Now you need to know a bit about these guys…Phillip, Andrew, and Peter were all from Bethsaida, but Nathanial was not. Both Phillip and Nathaniel were familiar with OT scripture, they would be considered Israelites, those who accepted Jesus as the coming Messiah. But Nathanial appears to be amused or disparaging that the Messiah had come from Nazareth. But Philip not to be silenced says “Come and see.”
What comes next is important…
47 Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
What does this mean? What is Jesus saying? Not all Israelites could be trusted. In those few words Jesus had stated the sad fact that some of the people of Israel were using a lot of deceit. They lied, they cheated, some were in the habit of saying something but meant something else. They cheated in many ways; they used cunning ways for their own advantage. Jesus could see and no doubt feel within his soul that Nathanial was a man of good character. Nathanael is “without deception”. He is sincere.
Jesus’ call was personal not only to Nathaniel but to you and me. The call to follow Jesus, the man, the teacher, the role model and the one who has our best interest at heart is the same Jesus who teaches us the way through right paths, gives us hope in dry valleys and shows us how to love and how to be humble, to seek truth and righteousness so that at the end of our days we can truly say Jesus is the alpha and omega and move from this world to the next having eternal life. Jesus calls us to follow him, not to join a denomination or a church but himself. He wants us to have an honest and open relationship with Him. If you think that you can hide something from him, you are mistaken.
Just as he did with Nathaniel, he can see right through you and me. He knows the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Responding to Him, to follow Him is our is our primary purpose in life and his greatest desire.
The call of Jesus is passionate and purposeful. The disciples’ obedience was immediate: As fishermen and it meant leaving their nets, their family, their boats. All the things that they knew. To leave and to follow Jesus was a big deal.
Today if you were asked to leave what you have, and follow Jesus into the unknown what would you think? Will you follow Him, wherever he leads you in 2024? If our primary purpose is to know him, our second purpose is to serve him. If you have accepted a call to follow Jesus your next action would be not only to say thank you, but more than that – it’s a wanting… it’s a desire to do something in return. It is that sense, that desire to share what you know, what you have experienced with others and to help them.
It may well be a sharing of your gifts which may have suddenly come to light or perhaps gifts gained over many years have found a new opportunity to express them. It means that there is a desire, a craving to learn how to be a committed apprentice. It is the search of scripture and the desire to learn more from the bible. It’s also a call to a purposeful life.
Again, I want to ask… have you yourself like Nathaniel been called? You see, if you have, it’s a passionate call from Jesus. Like Nathaniel at first you may be a little unsure, or even a little scathing. You may feel overwhelmed or that you are not worthy. It doesn’t matter!
|The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
God is patient! He will wait.
I will be honest – it was many years before I said yes and accepted Jesus into my life. When we come to faith, we think that we chose to follow Jesus. But as we grow to know him better, we realize that it was Jesus who came looking for us. God’s desire is to be glorified both in us and through us. He does this by changing us from the inside out through the power of His Holy Spirit and the surrender of our will – one surrender at a time.
Jesus will ask questions. He tests our motives. Following Jesus must be a conscious decision we each choose to take. Jesus says, “What do you want?” “Why are you following me?” “Because someone brought you?” “Because it is expected of you?” “Or because you want to find out more about me?” Jesus invites the disciples and us as individuals to be with him.
So, let me ask you, why are you here this morning? Because you have always attended church? Because you like the music or the liturgy? Or because you want to be with the family of Jesus and serve them? When we trust in Jesus we are born into his family. We are unique and have different gifts and talents, but we are here to support one another. The Holy Spirit lives in us, assures us, equips us, and binds us together into a family of many nationalities and evident here this morning.
God’s third purpose for us is to share Him. Notice what happens at the beginning of today’s Gospel. Jesus meets Phillip. Philip tells Nathaniel about Jesus, “We have found the one…” Philip urges Nathaniel to meet Jesus, “Come and see…” Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus. Nathaniel trusts in Jesus. When Nathaniel met Jesus, he discovers that the Lord already knows all about him. Isn’t that true of us too? No wonder these disciples are eager to introduce their friends to Jesus. Their sharing the news about Jesus was neither false, self-conscious, forced, or artificial. It was spontaneous. It was infectious. It was effective. They couldn’t help themselves but speak of him to others.
If we want to be fruitful and have a spiritual life, you need to spend more time with Jesus and his family. As your faith and understanding grows you will be ready when opportunities come your way to talk about him and serve him. It will feel natural to invite others to meet him too. “Come and see” is the most effective invitation there is. Then watch as Jesus does his transforming work in their lives too.
This morning we have observed that there is:
- A personal call to follow…
- From following we move to serving…
- And from serving we move to sharing.
`We need to share Him because of the concern Jesus has for the lost, for those who do not yet know, love, kindness, and freedom.
Let us pray.
Lord God and heavenly Father, help us each discover your call and purposes for our life so that we might make our love for you so infectious that others will come to know you too, and one day we may hear you say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
2024-01-07. Sermon for Epiphany, Family Eucharist by Rev’d Sharon Chalcraft
May the things we see, the things we hear and the things we share, help us on our journey to Christ, light of the world.
To journey we require some sense of direction, and often we need the help of others. We find our way by experience and asking the right people the right questions. Often when we are lost or have a difficult question, we tend to ask those we know and who think like us.
We ask them because we trust them or maybe because we are hedging our bets that they will answer in the way WE OURSELVES want the answer to be, or to receive a solution that will make our lives easier, to take a short cut.
Just as we have seen with the help of our friends this morning, there will be obstacles in our way, we may have to make some diversions, we may well be fooled by someone who send us to a dead end or who ‘sails us’ down the river. We might be blind (folded) to what may seem to others obvious. That is why we need others to help us on our journey and none more so on our spiritual journey.
Perhaps those who have travelled with us before. Maybe those who are good at reading signs. Maybe those who are familiar with the destination!
Today we celebrate Epiphany. It begins the journey of 3 mysterious and wise men who travel through perilous roads and mountains to meet with the infant Jesus. They well may have felt lonely as they travelled strange ground, they may well have been ignored or even laughed at because of the way they dressed. On the way they are called to king Herod, who tells them a bundle of lies as to why he wants to see the infant.
Fortunately, these Magi are wise men and they’re smart. Whether they had heard others speak of Herod and his evil ways or simply had a hunch, when they saw the star which led them to Jesus, they did not tell Herod. They worshiped the baby Jesus, presented their gifts, and left by another route.
So, today let’s consider our own journey.
Can you remember a time when you had a journey or venture planned? Did it go the way you wanted it to, or did you have to change direction at some point and make alternative arrangements? What did you do? Who did you consult? How costly were the new directions?What else did you do? At what point did you consult God?
Did you consult God first before your planning began or was He your last resort?
I believe that through our own ignorance, through our own pride we will do anything and ask everyone except God what we should do with our lives. As such we continue our very own merry-go-round, making the same mistakes year after year. When the kids make a mess we shout at them, we scream. We feel guilty at shouting at them and promise not to do it again. How long does that promise last?…
How about someone in a toxic relationship? The shouting starts, the throwing of dishes, even the odd punch. The violence in word and deed increases. Those who are watching are scared. When things have quietened down, the perpetrator feels guilty and promises not to do it again. They may even project the blame on you! Do you know what that means?
It means . . . they come back at you with “you made me do it!” “Oh, I’m so sorry it was the drink talking.” “I’ve got so much on my plate I wasn’t thinking straight.”
THERE ARE MANY MORE EXCUSES I’M SURE YOU COULD IDENTIFY.
What it really means is the culprit is not taking responsibility for their own actions and they are certainly NOT talking to God. You see God would not send you down a wrong path. God’s help comes through many channels.
- Through the scriptures.
- God does give us people who will help us on our journey. BUT WE NEED TO KNOW THAT THEY ARE HONEST AND TRUE
- God wants us to come to Christ and see Him as the light of our lives and the light of the world.
So, what is it that I’ve just said? Anyone brave enough to shout out? I guess you folks out there this morning count yourselves as Christians. Whether your faith is as small as a mustard seed or as big as a tree that the birds can nest in, you have faith in God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You may not be able to understand it all but there is some little bit… that small something deep within you that makes sense even if you can’t verbalise it. That thing which is so captivating it brings you back week after week. Well, perhaps not every week but again and again.
So, what is the Epiphany? What’s it all about? Epiphany marks the day that Jesus was revealed to the world. He comes into the world as a helpless babe and if you stick with the Journey over the coming weeks, you will learn that he was fully human just as we are. He suffered from every emotion that you and I will go through and more.
An Epiphany is the revealing of something! Epiphanies are not confined to the Bible. An Epiphany can and does occur in everyday life. It is when someone experiences a moment of self-realization. A lightbulb moment. Something that was in darkness has now come into light, into a new understanding. Epiphanies or sudden realizations or insights and can be both positive and negative. Hopefully they will lead to personal growth and positive change, but they can also bring to light uncomfortable truths or realizations that can be difficult to process.
This is where we must make a decision. In the positive… – do we sing and dance for joy God’s praises or do we pack our own suitcase and go our own way. If today or some other day you have an Epiphany, my prayer for you is that you go to God first – whether it’s to give thanks or to seek God’s word for the right direction and the journey ahead.
Let us pray.
Lord God and heavenly Father, as we begin this new calendar year help us to keep our hearts and minds fixed on you. Continue to inspire us when we need inspiration, to reprimand us when it’s needed and give us the discernment to understand where we need to adjust our lives. Amen
2023-09-10. A sermon by guest preacher Sharon Chalcraft
Sermon for 14th Sunday after Trinity Year A
Readings: Ex 12:1-14; Rom 13:8-14; Gospel Mathew 18:15-20
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
Have you noticed how some people have hearing problems? Let me tell you about Eric. Eric had serious hearing problems for a number of years. So, he went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed him to hear 100%. A month later Eric went back to the doctor, and after a few tests the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”
Eric replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet! I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!”
Now let’s get serious here. Today’s Gospel is one of several scripture texts that have been used to harm others. Today’s verses are not meant to be a statement of power. These verses do not mean that if two or three people agree on something, then they can ignore others and do whatever they want. These verses are about listening and accountability. They are about seeking the big vision of God’s kingdom. Our Gospel this morning isn’t talking about the deafness that Eric had been suffering from. Jesus is talking about those troublesome folk in church and I want to quantify that by saying EVERY church has them. It’s the folk that see the splinter in someone else’s eye but fail to see the log in their own.
Jesus wants to tell us that coming to church, being a follower of Christ is NOT a cuddly comfy place, warm and fluffy, an El-Dorado or garden of Eden. It is instead a training ground. And not for the faint hearted! Churches including ours have troublesome people. Some folks, are rather good at spotting any agitators around us, identifying their destructive habits, and condemning ways, they seek to destabilize our communities. But an important thing to remember is to notice when we are engaged in these very same behaviours. After all, those troublesome people may be us.
The Gospel message is telling us how easily the church community is destabilized by conflict. The “church” that’s us, the body of believers is bound by our faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ. Jesus reminds the faithful of the great power they wield. But with great power comes great responsibility.
All too often we see, hear and have may well experience abuse of this God given grace. Community as a good and safe community is vital. Community is God’s gift to us and those who know how precious it is will by the grace of God work to make the church the best it can be. That community, as we know too well, must be preserved, and protected from bitterness hatred and resentment as well as pointless dissension and conflict.
Today’s Gospel gives us guidelines for communal discernment and help when this sort of thing happens.
And what is it?
It’s to tap into the community’s own resources of witness. Unresolved conflict ought not to happen in corners or behind closed doors where plotting and differences in power can overwhelm the weak. Nor should they happen through whispered rumours where the corrosive effect of gossip can pervade our lives and divide the community. Today’s gospel is saying you are to begin with directly addressing the issue!
If it doesn’t work you then need a witness to your case, someone who presumably sees things the same way you do in gospel truth. Failing that, you move through larger circles of involvement in the community. What must be realised and accepted is that the community at large is under threat. The whole ship can be destabilised.
When a community is faced with such a situation as described in today’s Gospel it is a decision not to be taken lightly. It can be fraught with danger and trouble. But what must be kept in the forefront of the decision is the whole community. If the church, that’s the building and the community is sacred ground, it’s the reason why conflict needs to be addressed and precisely why divisive sisters or brothers cannot be allowed to tear God’s people apart.
How we relate to one another in our Christian community is a concern in and to God’s heart. He is concerned for us!
So, as difficult as it is, this is a good structure for church conflict. If we believe in ‘truth’ we must confront one another with the steps from the Gospel. Issues not dealt with are not only to the detriment of us but to God and to the church as a whole.
So, how might this be resolved? It is hoped that for the greater good, being honest and humble may well start the process of reconciliation. Reconciliation begins the process of healing. Those who are hurt by such behaviours and those who exhibit such traits both have unresolved issues not reconciled with-self. To look at oneself often requires outside help. However it is nearly always met with aggression. The simple reason for this is we don’t want to go into the darkest places of our being. We may think that “if they knew the truth about me, they may think differently of me”, or something similar.
God challenges us to take a deeper look at ourselves and what might be our own self-destruct button. The acknowledgment that sometimes come is there has to be tough love. In truth, what has been laid out in front of us here is not a draft so much as a statement of gospel values and acknowledgment of both the frailty as well as the utter necessity of communal discernment. Love requires that we address the inevitable conflicts that will arise among us. It is not enough to sweep them under the carpet or have a mushroom effect, keeping things in the dark pretending that problems don’t exist while the reality is they are smouldering away. Unaddressed conflicts can paralyze individuals and the community is unable to function as God hopes. Reconciliation, forgiveness, doubt, and humility can only be found when we are open and honest with each other.
Many people say, “people who go to church use it as a crutch”. “they are hypocrites”. I say people who come to church seeking the truth are able to live differently when people who know who they are, they are broken, they are seeking God’s forgiveness and want to be reconciled not only with God’s love but with one another, to live in community and be safe.
Prove to others that you are a believer because of your own journey with Christ, receive forgiveness, receive that peace which passes all understanding and live the life that God intends for you
Let us pray
Lord God and heavenly Father, with a fresh understanding forgive us our sins as we those who sin against us. Help us to be peace makers as opposed to trouble makers. Help us fix the dark places of our behaviours and bring us to that peace which passes all understanding. Amen
2023-08-27. A Sermon by guest preacher Sharon Chalcraft
Sermon for 12th after Trinity Year A based on Exodus 1.8 – 2.10
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our rock and redeemer.
This morning I would like us to look at the Old Testament reading form Exodus, the story that many of us are familiar with, the story of Moses and his birth.
The heart of the message throughout the book of Exodus is about identity.
For those who have difficulty with their identity, or their place within a family or society I hope that you will glean a little from today’s message.
I want you to focus on the characters in this story not only on Moses but on Pharoah and the different women in this story. Each one has a specific role, a particular job. In finding out what they do and how they behave reveals their identity.
So, our reading begins with a crisis of identity and perhaps a portion of fear and trepidation. The descendants of Jacob had gone to Egypt to escape the famine and found themselves living under the rule of a new king. This king did not know Jacob or his heritage so rather than being a favoured people the Hebrews become enslaved to Pharaoh, the new king.
Pharaoh, this new king is afraid,! No, he’s terrified and shows his character and identity. He is afraid that his power and authority will be overthrown by the ever-growing community of Hebrews, so he orders a decree that all new-born boys MUST be killed. Can you imagine doing that? What do you think of his character? So, under his orders all new-born Hebrew boys were thrown into the Nile. If you haven’t seen the Nile, I can assure you that it is long and wide! In places the current runs fast anything falling into the water would be lost forever. What I want to share with you this morning is something that happens that you may never have noticed it before, baby Moses is destined to die but what happens next is something of so much importance, we need to look at it further. On one hand the story shows us the deepest level a human can stoop. The cold-blooded killing of another. Particularly a vulnerable baby….
On the other hand, it is a story of true human compassion. Moses’ birth mother knows that she must relinquish her child’s life to save him. The consequences of not doing what she was ordered to, to kill him probably put her life in danger to. What do you think of her character? …..
Moses ‘sister stands at a distance, watching, waiting! She knows that Pharaoh’s daughter will come and bathe in the river. When Pharaoh’s daughter steps into the water she sees the basket, she opens it, recognises that it is Hebrew boy and takes pity. This compassion is in total contrast to her father’s ruthlessness. Pharaoh’s daughter adopts him as her son. What do you think of her character?
Moses a Hebrew is brought up by a nurse who is his mother even though he is adopted as an Egyptian. He lives in a palace, a very different life to the one that could have been. But it is not only Pharaoh’s daughter who is the heroine here, no, not at all.
What I want you to see is that there are many women in Moses’ life as he is growing up. Throughout time, a mother’s love can make her do all sorts of things for her children. Things that will cause her heart break. And all too often the pain or shame is so bad they never admit it. In this story the only way this mother could save her child was to let him go. Her heart must have been shattered when she realised, she had no choice but to send him away. Maybe you know of a mother who has had to send her child or children away. Perhaps the woman was a young girl and couldn’t cope with motherhood just yet. Perhaps she was caught in the roundabout of drink or drugs. Perhaps it was poverty. Perhaps it was plain dislike of this screaming and squirming mass. The truth is, believe it or not for one reason or another there are some cruel mothers out there and fathers for that matter. But just like the story of Moses, there will be someone there to fill the gap for you, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, or good friend but you will need to let them into your life. Perhaps you are that mother who had to let your children go or leave them behind.
But let’s get back to the story. . .
The characters in this story, the winners are those who have faith in God. Moses’ mother’s faith in the God of Israel, guided this resourceful woman to waterproof a basket, gently lay the baby Moses inside and watched it float away. God allowed her to hold him again, when she became his nurse, but she was to surrender him once more, this time knowing he would enjoy the safety and all the good things that Egypt had to offer as the adopted grandson of the King who would have had him killed.
This story doesn’t end here, you see, because Moses’ birth mother had the faith to let him go and the courage to embrace such a devastating loss, she delivered the one who would later deliver a nation. This shows us that our life is not one to go it alone. It is much bigger; it is a family affair. Perhaps you have had to let a son or daughter go and the pain is unbearable. But keep your faith, and trust in God. There are and will be many different faces who all add to the outcome of our lives, and we too must play our part. Just as Moses was chosen so are we. That’s each of us, we are chosen for a reason. When our character and our faith is built on good foundations, we can work to a life that is fulfilling not only for us as individuals but also for our community and society. Week by week we are encouraged with words from scripture, with opportunities to learn more.
2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God.
Today’s Gospel, Jesus asks asked his disciples, that’s you and me, “ who do you say that I am?’ We believe in God and have Jesus as our role model so we follow Him. In truth it is the person or persons who become our role models. A good role model will help build good characters.
But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.
Let us pray
Lord God and heavenly Father help us to build our faith and our characters on good foundations. Help us to be grounded with the words from scripture and those good characters who come into our lives. Help us to be a good parent, brother, sister, or friend. We ask this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2023-08-20. A sermon by guest preacher Ephraim Sserunkuma
Sermon for the 11th Sunday After Trinity. Gospel Matthew 15:21-28
Let us pray: Father God, would you please speak though me now, and let the truth of your word control our thoughts, Amen.
Have you ever tried calling someone’s phone number for something IMPORTANT or URGENT and they don’t pick up? Or they put you on hold? How does that make you FEEL?
Many times when we call to God, we want Him to RESPOND right away. If He doesn’t, we get angry with Him, some Christians even stop praying, while others look for plan B.
In today’s Gospel reading (Mt. 15:21-28), there is this story of a TROUBLED woman with a DEMON-possessed daughter, whose PRAYER wasn’t answered RIGHT AWAY. BUT she still kept her faith in God.
The first time this Canaanite woman cried to Jesus for help (“have mercy on me son of David, my daughter is tormented by a demon”), Jesus did not answer even a WORD.
God’s SILENCE doesn’t mean a REFUSAL, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t CARE or that he doesn’t HEAR.
Sometimes, He is testing our faith.
I think Jesus intentionally ignored this woman to show the disciples and OURSELVES what a GREAT and PERSISTENT FAITH looks like!
In her first call to Jesus, she acknowledged her own FAILURES (“Have mercy on me”). We find no mercy until we admit that we need it.
It is amazing that the silence of Jesus couldn’t stop this woman continuing to ask HIM to heal her demon-tormented daughter. She didn’t get angry at Jesus’ silence, neither did she give up.
Verse 23, tells us that the disciples asked Jesus to send her away because her cries (shoutings) were becoming a burden to them.
This woman never allowed anything to stop her from seeking Jesus. Great faith relies on God, nothing more, nothing less.
As Christians, we need to treat all people with kindness and compassion. But if you come to church and feel mistreated, please, don’t let that stop you from seeking Jesus.
In verse 24, She now hears Jesus speaking for the first time, but what does He say? VERY UNPLEASANT STATEMENTS. “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. We don’t know if He was telling this to the woman or reminding it to the disciples after asking Him to send her away. But what we know is that this woman heard Jesus speaking because the next verse tells us that: she knelt before Him and said “Lord, help me”. In other words, she worshipped Jesus.
In verse 26, Jesus speaks again saying “it is not right to take children’s food and throw it to the dogs”.
Jesus, the LOVING SAVIOUR called her a DOG.
I like dogs very much, but I don’t like anyone calling me one, no matter if it is a German shepherd or a boxer.
If you think being called a dog is a compliment, try calling your friend a lovely dog after the service and you’ll see.
Jesus was not being disrespectful when he said it is not right to take children’s food and throw it to the dogs.
He was rather testing the faith of this woman and at the same time teaching His disciples and US a lesson.
This Canaanite woman didn’t CURSE Jesus for calling her a dog.
She could have told Him, I’ve had enough of you.. FIRST you didn’t answer me,
SECOND your disciples want nothing to do with me,
THIRD, you’ve come for the Jews and not gentiles like me, and now you call me a dog? I will find someone else to help me.
BUT SHE DIDNT. She knew that only JESUS could help her!
Her response is PRICELESS! She just agreed with Jesus and then built her case on what He had said.
She accepted being a dog and said that “even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”.
This woman was confessing her total dependence on God. She knew that the power of Jesus was so great that even the left-over crumbs were enough to set her daughter free from spiritual bondage.
This woman didn’t care what others would call her, she knew that only Jesus had the power to deliver her daughter from Satan’s torment.
In verse 28, Jesus says to her, “Woman, great is your faith! Your request is granted”. And her daughter was healed at that very moment.
There are times when we place certain conditions on God to meet our needs. God, I need your help, but I will not allow myself to be called names, I will not eat crumbs, I only want to sit on the high table.
We miss God’s blessings because we are not humble. But this woman accepted being called anything, being placed anywhere, even under the table with the dogs.
This story teaches us that our worthiness has nothing to do with our salvation. She was not worthy and neither are we.
By telling this Canaanite woman that she isn’t worthy, and then answering her prayer, Jesus is telling us that it is not about our worthiness.
She PERSISTED even when everything and everyone was telling her to give up. When God puts us ON HOLD, we should always keep TRUSTING in Him because He will eventually speak.
There was a time Jesus was hanging on the cross and He cried out ”my God, my God,why have you forsaken me”’? He did not get a response at that very moment, but He was committed to His heavenly father because after that, he said, ”Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit”.
My dear friends, never confuse HUMILITY with weakness. This mother is a courageous warrior fighting for her child, but she HUMBLY submits to the Lord of the universe.
When Jesus was silent, this woman never questioned the will of God, instead she was willing to take the lowest place, even the place of a dog under the master’s table as long as she received the master’s blessing.
God rejects the PROUD but He gives grace to the HUMBLE. Pride would have been offended by the dog comment or even returned insult for insult.
God wants us to PERSIST in prayer in order to STRENGTHEN our FAITH in HIM. If all our prayers were answered right away, then our faith would never grow. Faith like for this woman is what Jesus wants from us all.
OUR prayer this morning, is that this story inspires us NOT to GIVE UP just because the mountain is difficult to climb or because other people are discouraging us.
Let us pray
May God graciously grant US ALL this kind of faith. A faith that WON’T GIVE UP. Help us keep our eyes on Jesus, so that we keep our faith in God. Let us keep seeking and keep knocking because without a doubt, our faith can only find a resting place in Christ Jesus.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
2023-07-30. A sermon by guest preacher Rev. Sharon Chalcraft
Sermon for Trinity 8 Year A Gen 29:15-28, Rom 8:26-end, Gospel Matthew 13:31-33,44-52
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our rock, and redeemer.
Wow! As if we hadn’t heard enough parables over the last few weeks, we now have 5 more! ALL AT ONCE!!!
And then Jesus asks “51“Have you understood all this?”
The disciples answer, “Yes.”
Question: what is a disciple?
Put simply, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus.
The disciples back in the day followed Jesus because they believed HE HAD SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY ABOUT LIVING in their dangerous and hard times, about living in a dangerous and hard world. He was speaking and providing in a way that gave food not only for the stomach but for the soul. His offer was and is radical. Instead of seeking belongings He suggests that the disciples, then and us now store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. To build a place where love, peace, justice, and kindness would prevail.
Jesus was and is not only offering a new life and way of living; ultimately, He was/ is offering His life for the forgiveness of all the sins committed by those that God the Father had created and loved.
Disciples then and now liked what they saw and were looking for a MORAL COMPASS and Jesus was the one to show them how to obtain this. Jesus was and is offering a new way of life.
Let’s get back to those parables.
Jesus is talking to His disciples, those who chose to follow Him. They were a rag-tag bunch, a bit like us really. Let’s look at the parable of The mustard seed and the huge shrub. Its saying, its showing us the contrast between small beginnings and great endings.
If you were or are a farmer, smallholder, gardener, or have a garden around your dacha, you would and will understand what this concept, this moral tale is saying. If your faith is as small as a mustard seed and you continue nurture and feed it with scripture you will grow your onward journey as a disciple. Who knows how big it will grow?
The yeast and the flour: If you are a baker, a cook, a chef or someone who prepares meals for others you will identify with this parable. A small amount of yeast mixed with the flour will cause the dough to rise. Again, it is from the small thing to the large. It’s worth telling you that the three measures of flour mixed with the yeast would have made over 100 loaves of bread.
Jesus is talking BIG here not small!
Jesus, no doubt exhausted from teaching the crowds, retreats to a house where His chosen disciples ask Him to explain the parables further. Perhaps it’s a bit like Jesus retreating from the main church to the crypt or parsonage to talk with the Church Council.
He begins: the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure found in a field, or the merchant who goes in search of fine pearls
So, if you are detectorist hunting for treasure left behind or lost by some careless soul, or a merchant trading in fine gems or trading of any kind of produce or manufactured goods this parable is for you. You see the Kingdom is likened to the treasure that is worth risking it all for. Your most valued and prized object is nothing compared to the treasure you are yet to receive. Selling your treasure is risking everything to obtain it. These two parables liken the Kingdom to a great treasure which are Your gifts and your peace. Ultimately, they are for the benefit of others, and you are called to share them.
So, is Jesus saying that the Kingdom here on earth? YES, He is! It is here in this very church! If you want it, you must search to find it!
If you cannot see yourselves in any of the parables yet perhaps this one is for you: Jesus says 47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;” Maybe you are one of the fish? A thought to be pondered is that there are many different shapes and sizes of fish, just like there are different shapes and sizes of people here in church today.
But here is the rub. Once everything has been caught, fishermen and women sort what’s valuable from what’s not. In the same way, God’s final judgment will distinguish between those who are His children and those who are not. It is the separating of the good and bad that is often the toughest for a disciple but as harsh as this may seem it has to be done. The connotation, the belief that the Christian must love everybody we meet is a misconception and a naive understanding of what it means to be a Christian. There are so many examples of when to be aware, to be mindful. Mindfulness encourages us to pay attention to our experiences in the present moment. As Christians, our awareness of the present moment is enriched by knowing that God is present with us. It’s the God-prod or God-incident. It’s scriptural, we the disciples are called to look at both parts in each parable: The good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the truth and the untruth. Then the angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous.
Looking at the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:18–23), Jesus explains that the seeds represent the word of the kingdom. Those who do not understand it are the hard soil of the path. Such persons are hardened or resistant, and the message never even penetrates the surface. Satan snatches away that truth like a bird grabbing a seed. Rocky soil represents those who seem to accept the truth, but without any depth. As soon as difficulty comes, they wither and fail. Thorns represent competing interests from the world, like money. Lives choked with those distractions have no room to allow truth to flourish. The good soil is those who receive the word and are productive with it.
Jesus then says,51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52He continues, “Therefore everyone who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Jesus is saying that both the old scriptures and the new have value in Jesus’ ministry. The point of these parables is not that one must sacrifice everything to obtain salvation, but that there is a clear difference in value between earthly things and heavenly things. Giving up all we have only seems radical when we don’t realize how valuable the rewards of the kingdom really are.
Let us pray
Lord God and heavenly Father, Help us to become better disciples for your Kingdom here of earth. Help us to inwardly acknowledge how valuable the rewards of the Kingdom really are, that we may love more openly, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; and love one an- other with mutual affection; and be passionate in spirit, serve the Lord.
2023-07-09 Unity. A sermon by guest preacher Rev. Sharon Chalcraft
Sermon for Trinity 5 Year A
Readings: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Romans 7:15-25a; Gospel: Matthew 11:16-18,25-30
Sermon based on verses: 16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our rock and our redeemer.
I would like to begin today with a story that I hope will help us understand and act as a demonstration of what the Gospel is saying.
Bundle of Sticks
There was an old man who had three sons. They were hard workers but always fought. The father could never unite them, bring them together. He then fell ill and asked his sons to unite through their differences, to “play nicely”, to love one another and work for the greater good. They paid him no heed and continued to fight!
So, the father decided to teach them a lesson to set aside their differences.
He gave each of them a bundle of sticks and told them to break it into two. Whoever finished first would win. Competing against each other they quickly completed this task and started fighting again.
The father then gave them another bundle of sticks and told them to break it as a bundle and not separately. Despite their best efforts, they could not do it.
So, he sat them down and told them it was easy to break the sticks individually. But if you stay united, you can work much better and get the job done sooner, working together no one can hurt you.
They finally understood the value of unity. That it was more beneficial to work together. To compromise when it was necessary, to see the bigger picture.
Moral: There’s strength in unity.
This is like the situation in today’s Gospel, often referred to as A CONTRARY GENERATION,
Listen to the first verses from our Gospel again.
16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
In this Gospel Jesus uses this parable about children playing different kinds of music for others to get a response. But those listening refuse to accept the kind gesture and act totally differently to that which is expected. Isn’t that like us! When we refuse to accept a new idea or to work with someone we don’t want to. Or if the hymns are not to our taste, we grumble. Even as adults we act like children.
Jesus uses the Market Place where people would gather in large numbers, to shop, chat, watch some theatre, dance, and hear music, as a familiar place those around would identify with. The children played lively and cheerful choruses on their flutes, and no-one was happy: they sang the sorrowful songs, and no-one was sad. Those around them didn’t respond how they should, and the players – the children – point out the insensitive and inappropriate non-response to those they played for.
A bit like us here in church. Those who profess faith may say, “It’s not the same as it used to be, the sermons were better when…” Or whatever it might be that is suddenly disliked.
But Jesus knew then and now that people did not have ears to hear His offer and accept the GOOD NEWS. They would squabble like children and there are folk who think and do just the same today. Some folk may be verbal about it, speak their mind, while others are more devious and scheming, talking in little groups or in huddled corners!
Jesus knew that they would reject Him as the Messiah because He ate and drank with despised tax collectors and Gentiles. They rejected the Son of Man because He liked social gatherings, met with undesirables, so they accused Him of being a gluttonous man and a drunkard. He knew they were rejecting John as Elijah because he lived differently, looked different, wore strange clothes had a strange diet and didn’t drink. John was too eccentric and odd. The people said, ‘he has a demon’, rather than repenting their own sins and looking at their own behaviour.
This Gospel illustration stands firm today just as it did so long, long ago. Do you see any comparisons with the Gospel message of long ago and how it is for us today? If you can it’s because your eyes have been opened and you recognise that this piece of scripture is the living WORD FOR TODAY. Jesus ends verse 18 with ‘Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
It is His acclamation, His certainty that serves as a prophetic warning to take in, digest, listen, consider, and act upon what He has to say. Its meaning is that good consequences result from wise choices and perspectives. When we have wisdom good things tend to follow. When we make the right choices, things seem to fall in place. When we take a wrong turning bad results follow, when we speak our mind before the brain is engaged it can show a lack of wisdom.
SO, WHAT OF THOSE STICKS WE SAW IN THE BEGINNING?
Well it’s simple: One stick can easily be broken, a strong person may be able to break two or even three, but when we stick together, work together and unite with the divine Trinity, not only holding us but in the centre of what we do and think, we will be strong.
Together as we seek to shape our future and St Andrews and our part in it, we need to work together, to be united and keep our focus on God.
There will be lots of opportunities coming up. Some may appeal to you, others won’t. But don’t dismiss them just because it’s not to your liking. Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. Then you are sure to share in the joy. Express gladness at someone’s else’s skills or newly found gift.
Be happy and don’t worry!
Let us pray.
Lord God and Heavenly Father, comforter, and healer of the broken you give us hope; teach us the ways of gentleness and peace, that through the scriptures week by week we hear and understand in a way which helps us walk with you. .That in the things we say and do reflect your glory. Amen
2019-05-27 The new Jerusalem. A sermon preached by Dan Culbertson
2019-05-12 Pilgrims. A sermon preached by Bishop Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Lichfield
2019-04-14 Disappointment with God. A sermon on Luke 19.28-40 for Palm Sunday. Preacher: Dan Culbertson
2019-04-07 Lavish love. A sermon based on John 12.1-8. Preacher: Josh Cleaver.
2019-03-24 Thirsting for God. Preacher: Nicolette Kirk