Mark 14: 46 – A Faceless Crowd

Mark 14: 46 - A Faceless Crowd

A faceless crowd. Harsh, accusing, out for blood. The giver of truth being condemned by a lie.

A traitor. A kiss.

A crowd of traitors. How many people in that crowd were also crying ‘CRUCIFY!!!’ just days later?

How many times have I stood in that crowd?

How many times have I accused, condemned, rejected? Turned my back because the truth was too hard to take? Gone along with the energy and hype, to be part of the ‘in’ crowd?

When we are accused, how often do we feel like we are being faced by that crowd?

Surrounded by darkness, pressured and pushed around, asked to be something you are not? Mistreated, abused, kept on the outside; rejected.

A faceless crowd of accusers, focused on the result rather then the truth. The greatest pain and injury we can feel comes not from our enemies, but from those who are closest to us.

Psalm 55: 12-14

It is not a enemy who taunts me –

then I could bear it;

it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me –

then I could hide from him.

But it is you, my equal,

my companion, my familiar friend.

We used to hold sweet converse together;

within God’s house we walked in fellowship.

10 ways that humility can be put into practice

10 ways that humility can be put into practice.

1. Listen without interrupting (Proverbs 18)
2. Speak without accusing (James 1:19)
3. Give without sparing (Proverbs 21:26)
4. Pray without ceasing (Colossians 1:9)
5. Answer without arguing (Proverbs 17:1)
6. Share without pretending (Ephesians 4:15)
7. Enjoy without complaining (Philippians 2:14)
8. Trust without wavering (1 Cor 13:7)
9. Forgive without punishing (Colossians 3:13)
10. Promise without forgetting (Proverbs 13:12)

The Kingdom of God Has Come Near: Luke 10:1-11 & 16-20

Many of you may know what I am about to tell you, but for those of you who don’t know what I am about to confess to you, I hope you don’t think worse of me and that none of you take offence . . . but . . . I don’t like tennis.

I don’t understand the hype, and why it’s taken up so much people’s attention this week. I don’t see the attraction in watching a two people hit a ball from one side of a net to another. I don’t understand how there can be so much money involved in sports, how players can be paid so much for playing a game.

However, saying all this, I can appreciate that some people are very talented at sports and there has to be a huge amount of motivation to train, especially when things are going well.

And I have wondered how some of them keep going when all seems hopeless and they’re failing, but I guess regular motivational speeches and pep talks, fame, glory, money and pretty much anything they want makes it much easier to carry on.

The first missionaries of the church did not have the same motivations or comforts. Today we heard in our gospel the 70 disciples being sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel to towns and villages. They are commanded to go empty handed, without basic provisions necessary for the road. They did not take money, bags or even a spare set of shoes.

Jesus knew how hazardous the work of the gospel could be, but still sent them out with very little to aid them on their way. The disciples knew they would not gain fame, or money or power for the work they were about to do but they were willing to give up their jobs and families to share in the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel.

The 70 went out in pairs into the dusty roads empowered in the knowledge that the peace they will give will be the peace of Christ.

This knowledge was all they needed. All the encouragement they needed was to know that the work they were doing was the most important thing they could do at that time.

There is something about the Christian faith that needs to be lived out to be understood.

There are some truths within the gospel that only make sense in streets, in the homeless shelter, and at the hospital bed or anywhere were people are crying out for mercy, bread, compassion and justice. Perhaps this is why Jesus sent out his followers with only the message that the kingdom had come.

At times we might disagree with this message. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the kingdom has come. When we turn on the news or open a paper and scan the headlines it is easy to come to the conclusion that we do not live in the kingdom. Wars rage with little sign of stopping, poverty and hunger claim the lives of so many while others live in great comfort without want or need. Many are unsafe even in their homes while others enjoy security behind walls and fences.

These are not the signs of the kingdom that we would expect. In fact, if the kingdom itself knocked on our door with no sandals, no food, and no money-we might be tempted to ask it to leave us alone.

But Jesus is persistent. The seventy are to proclaim to those who receive them and to those who do not that the kingdom is near. How could they do such a thing? If the kingdom has indeed come near, what are the signs of its coming?

Let’s look again at the instructions Jesus gives to the seventy missionaries: they are to enter a town, and where welcomed they are to stay-that’s Christian hospitality. They are to eat what is given to them-that’s fellowship. Then they are to cure the sick and care for the poor-that’s compassion and care. Finally, they are to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near.

Could it be that in the faithful and loving ministry of the disciples the kingdom of God in fact comes near?

If we use these messages and tools in our lives and try to live them out, can we along with those first missionaries bring and live in the kingdom of God?

Many Christians in our own time speak of the kingdom of God as a idyllic symbol of life as it will never be. But this is not Jesus’ message to the seventy as he sends them out. Instead, Jesus declares that, within the mission and ministry of these believers, in their work going out into the world, the kingdom of God will come near.

There is something about the Christian faith that must be lived in order to be understood. Jesus knew this and sent his disciples out into the world with the only thing they needed.

Some Christians today can use their theology as a bludgeon with which to beat others who cannot share in the faith we have. Some believe that we can make people believe by shouting louder or speaking longer then others. Some never step out of their comfort zones and insist on being that person who shouts the loudest and beat their views into others, but how can we spread the gospel and the good news of Christ if we refuse to get our hands dirty, if we never take that step out of ourselves and share in someone else’s life, if only for a few minutes. How will we ever be able to show Gods love to those around us if we don’t take the time to share our message.

How can we show to ourselves and others that God is here, and we are living in his kingdom?

Jesus has called us to be his messengers in the world, to show the love he has for all by caring for those we meet.

He has sent us out into the world like sheep in the midst of wolves, but we have all we need. We are not without protection, we have all we need, we have the message that the kingdom of God has come near. Amen.

Identity and Calling

Identity is a huge issue for those in the 21st century world and has become much more of an issue than it ever has before. We all like to fit in somewhere, it’s part of our human nature. From the beginning of our existence we have divided ourselves into family groups and tribes, identifiable to those around us by the land we claim and the customs we adopt. In modern society there is a great pressure to identify ourselves in a particular way and most people tread a tight rope between the mainstream culture and individuality. I’ve recently seen Will Young’s song, ‘Losing myself’ which identifies with falling totally to the mainstream.

Studies have been carried out and it’s thought that the average person can be confronted with up to 3000 advertisements per day, each begging for their attention, each trying to persuade that their product will change their life, make them cooler and sexier and completing all their quests in life.

There is a great concern especially for our young people who are pulled in every direction during those essential years when they are finding out who they are and what they are about. ‘Am I cool enough?’ ‘Funny enough?’ ‘Pretty enough?’ ‘Fashionable enough?’ ‘Likeable enough’

‘Am I enough?’

We seem to be in the generations of people pleasers, all concerned about what other people think about us. We will change our hair, clothes, likes, interests if we think it will make us more popular. Even those who seem to reject society and popular status are still trying to live up to an image. I remember well my ‘emo’ days (we didn’t call ourselves that then, but that’s the label that would be applied to us now), even when we were trying to reject the ‘mainstream’ likes and fashions we were still living up to a certain image by the style of clothes we wore, the bands on our t-shirts and hoodies and the music coming from our MP3’s.

We all want to fit in somewhere, we all need to fit in somewhere, whether it’s in the mainstream of society or somewhere out on the fringes.

Our identity crisis has much more of an impact then just on the individual. We live in a global society but instead of us being more accepting, many have just found new ways to divide ourselves. Last Sunday I preached on 1 Kings 17:17-24 of Elijah and the widow’s son, and Luke 7:11-17 of Jesus and the widow’s son.

I focused on Luke, although the stories are very similar. I explained the situation the widow found herself in when she learnt her only son was dead, because women at this time had to be represented by a man, or they became non-people. Without a male kin she would have no power and no social standing, and although the scriptures were very clear about the care of widows, that they were to be looked after, cared for and not exploited, this was no guarantee of protection in a man’s world.

The act of resurrection moves beyond the physical resurrection of the son, Jesus also resurrects the woman from her non state, broken by society and given a full life once again. She was brought from death to life.

Jesus did not only change people’s lives, he changed social orders. This is the work of God, caring for those that society wants to leave behind. The world is getting smaller with each technological advance, but instead of embracing others, and their traditions and cultures, we use them to divide ourselves further.

Sexuality, religion, ethnicity, language, nation, age, wealth, gender, music, TV the list goes on.

But this is not what God wants for us. God’s action is to restore the social order, to bring those we push out, back into our society. I see Jesus’ example of caring for the widow, and the deaf and blind and the lepers is a calling for us. We are called to be healers in our world, to restore all people with God, and to one another in Christ. We are to take Jesus’ example and be the change we want to see in the world.

If we truly are followers of Christ, then we will refuse to draw boundaries in our own lives, and refuse to exclude those who are different to us. We will work within our lives to right the wrongs and transform unjust social structures. We will welcome all into our churches and communities, and work together so that all people are fed, clothed, housed and cared for.

If we are truly followers of Christ we will work together for our common goal of loving one another as Christ loves us (John 13:34).

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)

Photo from: via Pinterest

A reflection on Psalm 146

Psalm 146

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The Lord will reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

After focusing people’s minds on God, the psalmist proceeds to tell his listeners of the foolishness of putting our faith in humanity alone, because humanity ultimately perishes, fades away, and our hopes and plans with them. If we only trust in humanity, then all our plans will come to nothing. Rather we need to trust in the one who will never fail, who will never fade away.

‘5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;’

It is in God only whom we should trust. The creator of all, who is faithful forever. Only the plans entrusted to God will last and be fruitful. The God who created us, who cares for us, the God

‘7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,’

In the age of celebrity this is an important message. This psalm tells us of the fallacy of seeking after the rich and popular. We stand on rocky ground if its our celebrities we put our trust and admiration. Yes they are entertaining to watch, and many wish to follow their ways, the way the dress and eat, the things they buy, but they will one day die and those things we have built up will fall and fade with them. And then what is left?

‘3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.’

No help, no life, no joy, no strength. All will tumble down to nothing.

Those things, those people that the Lord cares about may not seem as glamorous or exciting. There is little money or fame in caring for those oppressed, sick or hungry, but they are the things that matter. The Lord does not ask us to build up wealth and acquire possessions. He does not ask us to seek fame and recognition. He wants us to join him in caring for others. As it says in Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,”

Let this be our prayer, Praise the Lord!