Two debts forgiven – Children’s sermon

Luke 7:36-8:3

(Two volunteers for props. Get them to stand, arms out holding the bags, one heavy, one light. Get the rest of the children to keep an eye on them to see if they drop their arms all the bags at any time while I’m talking.)

Our readings today give us an important message. It’s a message about living The way that God wants us to live, and what happens if and when we break the rules.

In the gospel Jesus is at a party and a woman has come in, she has done things wrong in her life and the man throwing the party, Simon, was not happy she was there. He didn’t think she was worthy to be near Jesus, or at his party.

Now, there is a lot written in the bible about how we are to live our lives. There are rules written down and there are stories to give us examples. Can anyone think of any rules or commandments they know, any stories they give a message about how we are to live our lives?

Examples – the 10 commandments, the great commandment, parables, letters.

Jesus said that the most important of the commandments were to love God and to love other people. But we know we don’t always treat each other like we love them. Sometimes we cause hurt by the things we say or the things that we do.

And what happens when we break these laws and commandments? What happens when we don’t live like God wants us to live? What happens when we don’t love like God wants us to?

We become sinners. We hurt ourselves, others and God.

And sometimes those things get in the way of our relationship with God. They can create a barrier between us and God, a wall between us and God.  And sometimes other people don’t want to be around us because of the wrong things we have done.

And sometimes the wrong things we do we end up carrying around with us. We keep thinking about them, the shame and disappointment we have in ourselves and the consequences that they had. They become a burden, a heavy weight that we carry around with us. Sometimes the wrong things we do can get in the way of the things that we really want to do. Sometimes the wrong things we do can stop us living. And this is like the woman at the party, whose host didn’t want her their either, because of the things she had done

But God does not want us to live like this. He doesn’t want us to carry a heavy weight around with us. And God certainly doesn’t want us moving away from him or other people. So he tells us that whenever we do something wrong if we admit it and say sorry then we are forgiven. And when we are forgiven we no longer have to carry that weight around, we no longer have to be separated from each other, and we no longer need to be separated from God.

This is what Jesus teaches Simon at the party. He tells the story of two men Who owed money. One owed lot of money, and one owed a little and neither could pay off their debt.

When you’re older and when you owe a debt to somebody else, like when you owe a lot of money, you will learn this can feel like a heavyweight, a bit like the heavyweight of knowing you’ve done something wrong. They are both things you think a lot about and worry about and get nervous about.

Which is why I think Jesus used this image of a debt owed being like sin to teach about forgiveness.

And we have two people who have been holding a heavyweight for a little bit of time now. One holding a lot, and one holding a little. How are you feeling? Are your arms aching? Would you like to let go of your heavy weight?

(Take the bags off the volunteers but ask them to keep standing on their chairs)

Ask them how they feel now? Are they happier? More comfortable? Relieved? Lighter?

Jesus asked which of the two will be most relieved to have the debt paid off, which will be most relieved, to have the burden taken away?

The person who throw the party for Jesus answered, the one with the heaviest weight will be the most relieved.

And he was right.

Jesus then talks about the woman again, because she had sinned, she has done many many things wrong, and this had made her feel guilty and separated from other people. But she wasn’t sinful forever, she was forgiven. Jesus said ‘I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love to me’

We all do things wrong sometimes, we all say and do things that hurt ourselves, that hurt other people and that hurt God.  And the wrong things we do can have serious effects. But when we say sorry, we are set free to do all the good things again, without carrying a heavy weight of guilt and shame around. We are free again, like the woman to Jesus to show each other love.

Let us pray: God help us to love you and each other as you taught us through the Bible. And when we do things wrong, help us to say sorry and receive forgiveness so we don’t have to feel weighted down and so we can love again like you taught us. Amen.

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Lord, I am not worthy Trinity 1

We all know that there are times when life is just hard.

Sometimes life feels like something is beating you up, draining you of your life, bringing you to the limit of your despair, to the end of your resources, where you’re holding on by the tip of your fingers. Nothing has worked to help the situation, and nothing can be said to make things better. There is nothing else.

It could be fear, pain, loss, illness, tragedy, exhaustion, or a whole host of other things that have brought you to that place, and it seems like all is hopeless.

This is the place where the Centurion from today’s gospel is, because his much beloved servant was ill and dying and there was nothing he could do, he’d tried it all.

We do not know the Centurion’s name. We know he is a man of great authority who demands the respect of the soldiers under his charge. He gives orders and they are followed. He says ‘Come’ and they ‘Come’, ‘Go’ and they ‘Go’. But you can’t order an ill person to be healed and healthy. He probably tried it.

We also know that the Romans were seen in a bad light by the locals being the invading political enemy and unclean non Jews. They were maybe second only to the Tax Collectors, who were just scum.

But there is something different about this Centurion.

He’d heard about Jesus. He’d heard the things Jesus had taught about, and heard the stories of miracles that followed Jesus around. And so, in hope, and faith, he seeks out a greater authority then his own, and send some of the Jewish elders to speak to Jesus and ask him to come, and heal his slave.

The man who is so use to giving orders and making things happen, hands over all authority to a preacher he has only heard of.

We learn a little more of the Centurion at this stage, because the Jewish elders speak to Jesus and start making a case for him. You quickly get the picture that this is not your ordinary centurion. They tell Jesus that he is worthy, because he’s immersed himself in the culture of Capernaum. He’d show much love for the people there. He’d shown much love for their God too, so much so he has built a new synagogue. And when his slave had become very ill, the Jewish elders had no problems with trying to help him out.

And so Jesus, on the authority of their witness, and inclined also to help, made his way over.

But on the way the centurion seems to have had some sort of realisation. Inviting a holy Jew into a gentile house, making him unclean was not a good thing to do. And so he sends friends to intercept Jesus on route with a message,

‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed’.

This was the convincing factor for Jesus. He was so amazed at this message of great faith in the authority Jesus worked with, a profession of faith he had not heard in all Israel, who were meant to be God’s special people. And so Jesus spoke, and the servant was healed.

These last words of the centurion are the defining factor of this story, which takes it from pedestrian to extrodinany. Such great faith, from a gentile, and a roman, Jesus found this amazing.

And these words of the centurion have had a much longer impact then I’m sure he intended them to. These words have carried through the centuries, and are as powerful today as they were then. They have found their place in our own liturgy, or orders of service, just before we receive communion, reminding us of Jesus’ authority to make us clean and whole with just a word from his lips.

As I read through this gospel, I pondered how my own faith would compare to the centurions. Would Jesus be amazed at my level of faith? Somehow I don’t think so, because, like the people Israel, in my familiarity, I sometimes forget to be amazed at God. I forget to be amazed that he would create this world and everything in it, and love us so much that he gave himself in Christ.

This morning I share in Christ’s amazement at the faith of the Centurion. And I take his words as my own ‘Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word and I shall be healed’.

Because whether you are starting out on the journey of faith, like our baptism candidates are today, have no strong faith to speak of, in the depths of despair or are the holiest Christian here today, we are all, equally in need of Christ’s help and healing to make us whole.

 

‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed’.

Sermon Matthew 22: 34-40

For the last two chapters of the gospel according to St Matthew, Jesus is constantly being questioned. He refuses to claim his identity as messiah and leaves people to figure out from their own knowledge and experience who Jesus is.


While I understand the motivation of the repeated testing of Jesus in these chapters, I can’t help but feel sorry for Jesus and the annoyance and frustration he must have felt. Especially when He becomes faced with questions that are posed as tricks to make Him stumble into being discredited.

First, the Pharisees send some lackeys to trip him up over taxes question. He avoids that trap. Next some Sadducees try to trip him up with a tricky question about the resurrection. Again he avoids the trap. Now, in our passage for today the Pharisees come in person with a question about the greatest commandment to test him.

The way the Sadducees and Pharisees act remind me of our many and varied game shows and reality TV programs.

Reality shows, test people all the time. The prize is prestige and money. The penalty is being sent home, one’s dreams destroyed, with lots of people watching.

Let’s see if Jesus can sing well enough to get through the X Factor, or answer questions correctly like the show The Chase. Let’s see if Jesus can dance for us like on “Strictly come Dancing?” Let’s see if he can survive in the wilderness like on “I’m a celebratory Get me out of here.” What chance do you think he’d stand on Bake Off?

I admit, these examples are ridiculous but in so many ways were the questionings, trickery and testing that takes place in this portion of Matthew.

It’s no surprise that Jesus passes with flying colours, even when a lawyer asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment.

On the surface, the question “Which is the greatest commandment?” doesn’t seem like much of a test. But the question about which of the 613 commandments in the Law was the greatest was hotly debated at the time. Some held that they were equally important; others that a graded scale was needed in practical application in daily life.

It’s said that the best teachers are those who show their students where to look for what they need, but won’t tell them what to see.

A good teacher will allow their students to see for themselves and discover what they need to learn.

But we’ve all had those times when what is discovered and learnt needs some tweaking and re-aligning.

I was leading a group of 10 older children through some confirmation preparations, and we had one session on the 10 commandment. We came to ‘honour your father and your mother’ and one of the boys asked ‘is there a commandment telling us how to treat our brothers and sisters’?

Before I had a chance to say anything one of his friends offered an answer, ‘you shall not kill’?

I had a certain amount of sympathy for this idea, if you’ve grown up with siblings you may have felt the same at times.

Jesus, being a good teacher, showed them where to look for their answers, but what they want to see is for them to choose and decide.
The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

And then it is followed by this: You must love your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus has proved himself, yet again, that he knows the law and has authority with it.

So we are also told where to look. And what do we see?

As for Jesus, He saw that it would be more loving to give those Pharisees  a bit of His heart than to give them a piece of His mind.

(And I’m sure he could have given them a good piece of his mind!!!!!!)

We too would be happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

But when we look at the people around us, those at home, those at work, those in Church, it would be easier to give them a piece of our mind than a bit of our heart.

And here lies the lesson of life – Nothing and no one ever goes away until they teach us what we need to know.

God doesn’t give us the people we want. He gives us the people we need – people who will hurt us, people who will leave us, but also people who will help us and people who will love us, so as to make us into the persons we were meant to be.

When we can see that, then we would have understood the lesson of life.

And with that, we will be able to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

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.