The Selective Kingdom|Matthew 13:47-50

This past Tuesday, after dinner, my children and I ate homemade popsicles on our back porch. The sun was setting, the breeze was nice, and the popsicles were sweet. It was an idyllic way to cap off a busy day.

Earlier in the day, I had memorized this passage and I was looking for a chance to practice. “Kids” I said, “can I share the bible passaged that I’ve memorized.”

“Sure dad,” they said.

Brittney came out of the house with Abigail, just as I hit the second part of the parable. The part where Jesus talks about the wicked being thrown into the blazing furnace and the subsequent weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The kids didn’t react or say anything after I had finished. They just stared at me, eating their blueberry and banana popsicles.

Brittney broke the silence. “Maybe that’s not the best pre-bedtime bible story, honey.”

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is the word of our Lord? 

Why would our gentle and loving saviour preach a parable like this? Didn’t he know that this would be the last parable the crowds heard before going to bed that night. He could have sent them home with an inspiring picture of the pearly gates. But instead, he sends them home with a picture of fish rotting on the shore; the wicked being thrown into the fire.

We might wonder… is this the same person who ate with sinners and befriended prostitutes? I thought Jesus was all about love and inclusivity? This net business sounds like the God of the Old Testament.

You know, back in the 2nd century, a church leader named Marcion concluded that there was an incompatibility between the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus we meet in the New.

Marcion thought that the God of the Old Testament was inconsistent, jealous, and overly wrathful. Jesus, on the other hand, he believed, was the proper object of our worship; the loving representative of the real God.

There’s much more to Marcion’s thought than this, but this was his main idea.

And its gotten remarkable mileage. I hear it again and again. “I don’t like the God of the Old Testament” people say. “He’s fickle and vengeful. But Jesus, I like Jesus. Jesus loved all and he taught us to do the same.”

You’ve heard this before, I’m sure.

The major problem with this narrative is that it is easily dismissed by a thorough reading of both the Old and the New Testaments.

The God of the Old Testament, while hating idolatry and punishing it severely, is actually quite patient. And at the slightest sign of repentance, he is quick forgive. Just think of when Jonah went to Nineveh. God was going to destroy that place, because of its wickedness. But when they repented, he forgave.

Jesus, of course, fully modelled the patient love of the LORD. But he also showcased God’s justice. When confronted with people buying and selling in the temple, he overturned their tables. He also wasn’t afraid to warn people about the consequences of their sin.

In fact, no one in the scriptures talks more explicitly, frequently, and colourfully about the reality of Hell than Jesus. He talks about it more than Peter and Paul put together. In fact, Jesus describes hell in greater detail than he does heaven.

Don’t believe me. Here are a few examples:

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Mark 9:44-48

In this passage, Jesus is warning people that there are real consequences to moral laxity and undisciplined living.

Later in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a few parables that end in judgement days scenes. In the parable of the talents, for instance, Jesus condemns the servant who buries his master’s talent in fear. The punishment for the fearful servant is this: “throw that worthless servant outside, into the (outer) darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:30.

And in the very next parable, Jesus describes a day of decisive separation. A day when the sheep will be separated from the goats. And he concludes at the end of that parable that “Those who neglect the poor will  “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:46

And I could go on with quotes like this. There’s the parable of the wedding banquet. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Each of those end with a clear picture of judgement, warning, and weeping and gnashing of teeth. And the same is true for the parable in front of us today.

The Kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake, and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus clearly believed in a day of final judgment and punishment. Do you?

In the Christian tradition there are three main views about Hell and the final judgement.  There’s 1) the Universalist perspective, 2) the Annihilationist perspective, and 3) the Eternal Judgement perspective.

1: Universalists believe that in the end, basically everyone will enter the Kingdom of heaven. God’s redemptive love will extend to all. Christ’s death will cover all. God is love and God will not allow people to suffer the consequences of their sin, eternally.  If not right away, he will one day incorporate all into his Kingdom of peace.

The main trouble with Universalism is that it’s awfully hard to reconcile universalism with parables like the one we’re looking at today. Why would Jesus talk so consistently and explicitly about judgement day, if it weren’t a real reality, and if everyone just received a participant ribbon at the end of history for being human being.

Those who take the bible seriously, usually end up holding the second or the third view.

Both Annahiliationists and Eternal Judgement people believe in a day of sorting and separation. They believe that when Jesus returns, he will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. But they differ on what happens next.

2: Annahiliationists believe that the wicked will be destroyed on Judgment day and that that is that. Game over for the unrighteous. In the book of Revelation, the picture we get seems to point this direction. In John’s vision only those who belong to Jesus are welcomed into the New Jerusalem. The wicked, however, are thrown into a lake of fire.  It is said the Satan will be tormented forever in the lake of fire, but that is not said of the others who are thrown in.

Fire destroys. And there’s a finality to this picture. There isn’t room for hell in the new heavens and earth.

Most days, I find myself in agreement with the Annahiliationists. This view is most attractive to me. But, I have to admit that there seems to be more biblical support for the Eternal Punishment camp.

3: This view states that life continues on, eternally, for both the wicked and the righteous. The Righteous will enjoy life with God, forever. The wicked will be cast from God’s presence and suffer the consequences of their sin, forever.

In our parable today, it seems as though the blazing furnace is not the end for those who get thrown in. The weeping and gnashing of teeth—a picture of misery and violence—happens after the wicked are thrown into the furnace.

In the parable of “the rich man and Lazarus” (Luke 16), the rich man is not annihilated when he dies. Rather, his life carries on and he suffers in a distinct place, a place that he is not allowed to leave. And as we already heard in the parable of the Sheep and the goats (Matthew 25), the punishment given to those who do not feed the hungry or clothe the sick is eternal. Literally, the greek word for “eternal” is used in the text.

The Heidelberg Catechism teaches Eternal Punishment. As does the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt. So all the confessions that our denomination adheres too, testify that this is what the scriptures say.

(Back to Cover Slide)

One of the difficulties we have in trying to describe hell with any accuracy, is that the Bible’s language for hell is all pictoral and metaphorical. Even the word “Hell” itself is a picture. “Ghenna”, the greek word for hell, was literally a smouldering garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. It was hot place. Filled with smouldering mounds of decomposing food and feces. So when Jesus says: “If your right arm causes you to sin, cut it off, lest you go down into Ghenna” that’s the picture he’s playing with.

This is the picture. But what is the reality?

C.S. Lewis and Pastor Tim Keller have helped me out a lot in my own journey of trying to understand hell.

For them, the scary biblical pictures are simply seeking to describe the awful reality of what it means to do life apart from God.

For Keller and Lewis, hell is not a fiery place ruled by a red guy with a pitchfork. It’s much worse than that, Keller says. It’s the place where God let’s us be as twisted and wicked as we want to be. There’s no common grace in hell. No basic created goodness left. No parameters on human behaviour, either. Just the terrible, terrible disintegration that happens when everyone in a community decides to worship themselves.

And this terrible disintegration of personhood and community, says Lewis, is not just an end time reality. Its something that we participate in today—if we’re not careful.

Lewis describes the progression like this.

“Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God “sending us” to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud.”

Can’t you see yourself in this statement.

Hell starts small. A little cheating on your taxes. A few simply clicks of the mouse. You wish you wouldn’t do it. But its not a big deal, you tell yourself. Everyones’s doing it. So you go on. Pretty soon, greed or lust takes a hold of your mind. And begins to twist your soul. You self-justify. You start crossing boundaries that would have horrified you a few years earlier. You worry what others will think, but not enough to stop. Slowly others become devalued in your mind. Mere tools in your search for more and more of what you want.

Now, imagine that process going on for eternity. But without the safeguards of a working conscious, a functioning justice system, or friends who care for you. And its not just happening to you, but everyone around you.

That is Hell. It is the place where God allows us to be as self-centred as we want to be. God isn’t there tormenting people. He respects our freedom, and simply hands us over into Sin’s vicious embrace. There will be misery and violence, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And I don’t know about you, but that picture scares me a lot more than a blazing furnace or a red dude with a pitchfork.

A few weeks ago, a woman called me. Someone from the community. She wanted to talk with a pastor. So we set up a visit. I asked Ashley if she could be at church on the day this visit took place. I was worried about it. Something didn’t feel right. Within 5 minutes of the visit, I was totally on edge and had to fight to remain calm. This woman was caught in a descending spiral of trouble. But she wasn’t repentant or ready to take responsibility for her life. From her perspective, the world was against her. This included siblings. Her Church.

I listened and empathized. I tried to encourage her down a healthy path. But she didn’t come looking for a healthy way forward. She wanted an ally in her angry campaign of blame and avoidance.

A few phone conversations later, and it came to light that this woman was caught in a web of deceit and lies.

I pass no judgment on that woman. Boundaries, yes. But judgement, no. I pray for her. Because I know that that self-destructive hell-bent journey could happen to me too.

Sin is so deceitful. It messes with our mind. And Satan is always ready to point out for us the next little step that will lead to our destruction.

Hell is a journey that starts on earth. Do you feel it? Do you sense that in yourself. At a certain point, God will respect your desire to worship yourself, and leave you to pursue your own desires with reckless abandon. And when the day of separation comes….

The Kingdom of heaven is a like a net that was let down into the lake. It caught all kinds of fish.

But when full, the fishermen pulled the net up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw away the bad.

So it will be at the end of the age, says Jesus. Today the Spirit out fishing. Might Christ be out fishing for you. Calling you off the destructive path an on the narrow way? Today the Spirit is out fishing. Tomorrow, the angels will haul the catch onto shore. And only the righteous will enter into life with God. But the wicked will be cast away to a place where there will be misery and violence.

Cynics will say that this is all a scare tactic, fear mongering, designed to produce conformity.

That is one conclusion that you could draw.

But another conclusion you could draw is that Jesus loves us enough to tell us the truth about reality.

This parable, and the others like it, are coming from a place of love. That why Jesus shares them.

The other reason, he shares them, I think, is because they help to showcase the depths of God’s love shown in Christ.

The apostles creed says that “Jesus descended into hell.” Meaning he suffered the worst kind of spiritual and physical disintegration that can be imagined. On the cross, Jesus was abandoned by his Father in heaven. Cast into the furnace of sin and death. He, the righteous one, experienced the depth of misery and violence. Why?

Because God loves us and wants to rescue us from our hell-bent path towards destruction. Jesus endured hell, for us and for our salvation.

The truth is that only one fish caught by the Kingdom net was worthy of keeping. Jesus Christ.

But out of love, that Good fish took upon himself the punishment of the bad. So that we could be clothed with his righteousness, and renewed by his Holy Spirit. By Faith.

If you don’t get the seriousness of the Kingdom, you’ll never fully appreciate the power of the cross. Or the pure bliss of knowing that you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Some of you here today need to be assured of this. Assured that you belong to your faithful saviour Jesus Christ. And so I have words of assurance for you today. The promise of the gospel is that nothing in all creation, not even the power of sin or hell, can separate you from your Faithful saviour Jesus Christ. Trust him. Link your life to him. He will not let you go.

But others of you here today, perhaps, need to be challenged. You’re coasting along. Coming to Church on Sunday but living for yourself the rest of the time. Sliding through life without much care or concern for God and the things of God. Know today, what God is about and what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

There comes a day when the game of life ends and when the Kingdom of God takes over. You’ll want to be ready.

Amen.

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In His Joy | Matthew 13:43-46

Two weeks ago, we learned, through a parable, that the Kingdom of God is a hidden reality, with humble beginnings. It is, says Jesus, like a little mustard seed, that a man planted in his garden. Like a little bit of leaven that a woman mixed into the dough. But though it starts small, God’s kingdom has a surprising impact in the world. That forgotten seed grows to become the largest of garden shrubs. That bit of yeast infuses the whole loaf and causes it to rise.

This is God’s way of planting and extending his rule in and through the world. He plants his son in a manger. He quietly mixes his Spirit and disciples into the dough of history. Humble beginnings. Amazing results.

This week, we’re looking at a parable that describes what God’s Kingdom does to the human heart.

Jesus spoke this parable in a boat just off the shore of the sea of Galilee. The crowds had gathered around to hear him.

Hear this parable from the lips of our King,

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Both of these parables are talking about the same reality. They describe the inner transformation that takes place when someone has a genuine encounter with Christ and his Kingdom.

A man taking a Sunday stroll through the countryside stumbles upon treasure in the field. I like to imagine this man as a cartoon character with exaggerated facial features. As soon as he sees the treasure, his eyes become as wide as saucers and his chin drops to the ground. He can’t believe what he is seeing.

He quickly covers up the treasure. Then, fuelled by the joy of his discovery, he rushes back home and immediately tries to sell all of his possessions on Varagesale.

His neighbours think he’s crazy, or possessed. “Hey, what are you doing Bob?” They ask. “Don’t you know that that house and land has been in your family for generations. Shouldn’t you at least talk to your wife first?”

But Bob isn’t listening to them. For his eyes have seen the glory of the treasure in the field.

The same thing happens to the merchant. Being in business, this man knows value when he sees it. And one day, while walking through the market, his eye catches sight of the most valuable pearl he has ever seen. Once again, I like picturing this man as a cartoon character with exaggerated facial features. When he sees the pearl, his eyes bug out of his head and he covers his mouth for fear of making a scene with his giddy, child-like noises.

“How did the others not see it?” he wonders.

And like the man who found treasure in the field, this merchant returns home and immediately liquidates his assets. The only thing that matters to him now is having and holding the pearl.

This is what the kingdom of heaven is like, says Jesus.

When it’s glory is experienced, everything changes. When it is seen as the treasure that it is, all other shiny things fade away.

Two weeks ago, I described the Kingdom of heaven as being the realm of God’s effective will. That’s Dallas Willard’s definition. God’s Kingdom is the area over which God has authority. Its the place where he sets the culture. The community where what God says, goes.

Now, the Bible tells us that the “earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). So, in that sense, all things are God’s because he has made all things.

But, of course, not everyone recognizes the Lord’s sovereignty over all. Ever since Adam and Eve, the world has had a love/hate relationship with the true King. Like the prodigal son, we want what the Father has to give. But we don’t want the Father himself. In fact, we’d prefer him to give us our inheritance and then back off.

This rebellious streak impacts every human heart.

Deep down, we all would rather extend the realm of our effective will, than submit our lives to God and his Kingdom.

Given this rebellious streak, its not surprising that the history of the world is largely a  story of Kingdoms clashing. We fight for our will to be done on a small scale in our homes and workplaces, and on a large scale as nations.

No one wins in this pride storm. Creation groans under the weight of the struggle. We become victims of our own sin.

The bible says that the one enthroned in heaven laughs at our petty power games (Psalm 2). And it also tells a story that reveals that it is the Lord’s deepest desire to rescue us from the mess of our own making and reclaim the world as his Kingdom.

When Jesus started his ministry, he went about the towns and villages of the Galilee proclaiming the same sermon. His message was this: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

There’s a lot packed into that short sermon. But in essence, it’s an announcement. Breaking news. The Kingdom of God has come near. And the world will never be the same.

Jesus’ announcement at the beginning of his ministry is a lot of Mr. Beaver’s announcement in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. “Aslan is on the Move” he whispers to the four children. Aslan is on the move. This is news the propels the story forward. News that changes Narnia. Pretty soon, the snow begins to melt and flowers pop out of the ground. And everyone knows that the days of the White Witch are numbered. 

The Kingdom of God is on the move, says Jesus. The great day of liberation is near.

This disciples think that Jesus is talking politics. They think this Kingdom announcement is going to result in the land of Israel being restored to its former glory, with Jesus sitting on David’s throne.

But Jesus’s ministry will go much deeper than politics. He’s come to plant the Kingdom in people’s hearts. To forgive their sins and transform them from the inside out.

And wouldn’t you know it, wherever Jesus goes, signs of the Kingdom follow after. The lame walk; the lost are found; the isolated are restored to community.

This announcement, and the reality it represents, is the treasure of the Kingdom. The pearl that produces transformative joy.

Behold, the Angels declared to the Shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. A saviour has been born to you. He is the Messiah. He is the true King. Moved by joy and wonder, the Shepherds abandoned their flocks and went to Bethlehem to see the new King.

Wise men from the east saw signs of this announcement written in the stars, and they embarked on a multi-year journey to offer gifts and worship this new-born King.

And nearly everyone who came in contact with this King was impacted by his presence.

I’m thinking of the leper who cried who out to Jesus for help. “If you are willing,” he said, “you can make me well.”

“I am willing,” Jesus said. “Be clean.”

And though Jesus told the leper to keep this miracle a secret. In his joy, the man went and told everyone he knew.

I’m thinking about the woman who anointed Jesus feet with oil. Mary. What did she see in Jesus? Why did she pour out an entire bottle of expensive oil on Jesus feet—something that would have cost her a year’s worth of wages. Maybe she saw in him, the resurrection and the life. A pearl worth more than all the treasures of earth.

And I’m thinking about the Apostle Paul.

Paul, of course, was at first the most successful and ruthless of all those who stood opposed to Jesus and his Kingdom. But then one day, out on a journey to Damascus, the Kingdom of God came near to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me,” the voice from heaven said. Paul was blinded by the light, and over the next few days, a great transformation took place in his life. In no time, Paul went from hating Christ and his Kingdom to proclaiming Christ and his Kingdom. Pretty soon, he considered everything else in his life rubbish, in comparison to supreme treasure of knowing Christ.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Many who came in contact with Jesus were transformed by him. But others were repelled. The Religious leaders, for instance, didn’t see treasure when they saw Jesus. Jesus was a threat to their Kingdom. The same was true for Herod, and Pilate.

When your main priority is to expand your own Kingdom, the Kingdom of heaven will never appear glorious. Instead it will be a threat.

Other weren’t repelled by Jesus and his Kingdom, but they weren’t quite ready to forsake all for his sake.

I’m thinking of the Rich Young Ruler.

“Teacher,” he said, falling on his knees before Jesus. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus had just been talking about this. In the previous scene, he had said: “Unless you become like a little child, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

But the Rich Young ruler wasn’t interested in becoming a child again. He was a successful man, who had secured much for himself in life. Now he wanted to secure eternal life.

“Well,” said Jesus, “have you kept the commands?” 

“Since birth,” replied the man.

“One thing you lack,” Jesus said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.”

The Rich young ruler was not happy to hear these words. He knew that the Kingdom of heaven was a valuable treasure. But how valuable was it really? Was it worth giving up his possessions? His status?

This man wanted the heavenly goods, but he didn’t want it enough to forsake all in order to follow Jesus.

The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.

Repentance is an act of turning. In repentance you see the worthlessness of all the status games that you’ve played. The folly that you’ve based your life upon. And the harm that all this has caused to you and others. You see it, you get present to the impact, you feel its weight.

And then, in trust, you turn and yoke yourself to Jesus Christ. And with him, you begin the lifelong journey of aligning your life so that it harmonizes with the principles and values of his Kingdom.

To repent can be a solemn act. But its not drudgery. Those who have had a genuine encounter with Kingdom treasure don’t say: “Ah, Jesus, do I have to.” No… because they no longer have their eyes on the things of this world. But they have their eyes set upon the pearl.

Notice that the man and the merchant aren’t weighed down by the sacrifices they make to attain the treasure or the pearl. Both of them are moved by Joy. The sight of the treasure and the pearl has possessed them. Turning away from their other things is just what makes sense.

To see this illustrated in the Bible, I think the best example we have is of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a wee-little tax collector from Jericho.

One day, he heard that Jesus was passing through. He wanted to see Jesus. We’re not sure why Zaccheuas wanted to see Jesus, but we know he was serious about it. Desperate really. Desperate enough to do something childish like climb a tree.

Jesus was just passing through. But he just can’t resist a lost soul when he sees one.

“Come down from there,” Jesus says to Zaccheaus. I’m moving in. I must stay at your house today.

Zacchaeaus is overwhelmed to the core. And he scampers out the tree confessing his sins, while making promises to give to the poor and to pay back all that he has stolen.

What did Zacchaeus see in Jesus? Maybe he saw someone who could lead him off the wide path that leads to destruction and onto the narrow road that leads to life. Luke doesn’t tell us what Zacchaeus saw in Jesus. All we see is the fruit of his joy.

Zacchaeus cleans house. His life is transformed by an encounter with Jesus.

This parable doesn’t teach us what we need to do, in order to attain the Kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom of heaven can’t be bought. Rather, it shows us what a genuine encounter with the gospel of the kingdom does to a person.

It produces joy, joy, joy, joy, down in the heart. And that joy bubbles up and over. It leads to repentance. A new orientation towards life in the world. 

Friends, my deep desire this morning, is to point you towards the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price. I can’t give you joy that overfloweth. But Jesus can.

The leper, Mary, Paul, Zacchaeus. They all came in contact with a person and a reality that took their breath away and turned their world around.

This is the treasure: that Christ came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. You are included in that many.

This is the pearl: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He has come that you might be reconciled with your creator, forgiven, and sent on an adventure that leads to life in abundance.

This is the treasure: That Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

This is the pearl. When he returns, he will complete his Kingdom on earth, and the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.

Do you see it? Do you feel it?

Let the joy settle in. And let Jesus lead you into fullness of life.

Amen.

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Matthew 13:31-33

Dear Friends,

One thing is clear as you read the stories about Jesus in the New Testament. And that is that Jesus liked to tell stories.

Instead of responding directly to difficult questions, Jesus would tell a parable about vineyards, bandits, priests and Samaritans. Instead of talking plainly about the principles and contours of God’s Kingdom, Jesus talked about seeds and soils, pearls and leaven.

Jesus did this, said Matthew, to fulfill the prophecies of old. But he also did it, because parables have a way of unveiling truth at a deeper level.

Stories get lodged in our hearts and minds. And once they are inside, they work on us. They break down our defences. They get us to imagine the world and our place in the world in new ways.

This Summer, we are going to explore a few of the parables that Jesus taught. Today, we’ll be exploring two parables about the Kingdom of God. The parable of the mustard seed, and the Leaven.

Jesus spoke these parables while floating on a boat in the Sea of Galilee. (Picture)

 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[b] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Mustard Seed. The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast.

Talking about Kings and Kingdoms is not all that natural to us anymore. I suppose, in Canada, we still technically live under a monarch, but in general, the world isn’t ruled by Kings or Queens anymore, nor is it divided up into different Kingdoms. At least that’s not the language we use. When we talk about Canada, we don’t say “The Kingdom of Canada.” We say the country of Canada, or maybe the “Dominion of Canada.”

But while the language is different the concept is the same. The Country of Canada is a geographic area that stretches from Saint John’s to Tofino. That’s the eas/west boundaries of our Kingdom. And all that land, and all the people that live here, live under the authority of the government of Canada. Trudeau isn’t our King, but as the head of the ruling party, he has a lot of power over what happens in Canada.

Dallas Willard has a simple way of describing the concept of Kingdom. We are all Kings and Queens of our own respective Kingdoms, says Willard. Your Kingdom, is the realm of your effective will. That place in your life where what you say goes.

For some of you, you are the King or Queen of your kitchen. You set the culture in the place. You determine whether or not its rude to burp at the dinner table. You decide how the plates should be stacked in the dishwasher. You have dominion over your Kitchen.

Well, the Kingdom of heaven is simply the realm of God’s effective will. Its the place where God sets the culture. The area and people over which he has the final say and authority.

The people listening to Jesus on the shore would have understood this loud and clear. They knew about the Kingdom of God.

This is what they were waiting and praying for. They were waiting for the day God would come and make the crooked ways straight. They were praying for the day when a descendent of King David would ascend the throne in Jerusalem and restore justice and righteousness to the land.

The Disciples hoped that Jesus was their man. This is why they kept asking him: Jesus, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom of Israel? Because… we’ve been talking, and when you do, I’d like to sit on your right, and my buddy over there would like to sit on your left.”

The disciples imagined an immanent Kingdom. One with a King that looked like a King, a throne that looked like a throne, and a geographic space with specific boundaries.

But what they got instead was a mustard seed, and a little bit of yeast.

This parable must have been totally shocking for the original hearers.

Mustard Seeds. They are itty bitty little things. If you had a weigh scale, and put a paper clip on one side, you’d need 750 mustard seeds on the other side in order to balance out that weigh scale.

If a mustard seed fell out of your hand, you wouldn’t be able to find it again. And if you did find it, it was so small, that you wouldn’t be able to pick it up again.

Here’s a picture of a mustard seed. Do you see it? No, you can’t. Because it’s hidden in the crevices of Rabbi George’s big hand.

The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.

And yeast. It too is small in comparison to a heaping mound of dough.

Of course, Jesus isn’t talking about the little yeast pellets that we buy in packages at SaveON. He’s talking about Sourdough starter. That little bit of active culture that you nurture and mix into your next loaf.

You don’t need a lot of it. Just a few spoonfuls will do.

This is what the Kingdom of heaven is like, Says Jesus.

Its small. Hidden from sight. Nothing to see here.

And yet, there is a surprising amount of power latent in that little seed and table spoon of yeast.

The mustard seed, though tiny, grows to be the largest of all garden plants. A fully mature mustard tree is about 20 feet tall. In fact, this plant grows so big, that the birds eventually make a home in its branches.

Who would have thought that something so small could grow to become something so big?

And the yeast. Mix a little of that stuff into a lump of dough, put it somewhere warm, and then come back in two hours. You will be astounded at the transformation that has taken place.

Because though hidden from sight, the yeast permeates and expands the entire loaf.

This is what the Kingdom of heaven is like, says Jesus.

It starts small. A boy goes to Vacation Bible School. The name of Jesus gets planted in his head. It lays dormant for a while. But then one day it begins to grow.

A woman who has just lost her husband calls a friend. She’s hurting and needs someone who will listen. This woman’s friend listens closely, and then offers to pray for her hurting sister. And the Love of Jesus passes from one woman to another, like yeast moves through water and flour.

The realm of God’s effective will, says Jesus, has humble beginnings. It’s forgotten in the ground; absorbed by the world. But then, miraculously, it grows and expands to become a major source of life and blessing.

Notice how the tree grows to become a home for the birds. And notice how much flour the woman is making. She’s working with about 60 pounds of flour. This isn’t Sunday soup and buns, this is bread for the whole neighbourhood.

When I think about this parable, I see it, in a way, as a picture that can help us not only God’s Kingdom, but the life and ministry of the King of that Kingdom.

Jesus didn’t come to earth riding on the clouds with fire. He was born to insignificant parents in a non-descript place. A mustard seed tossed into the soil of history. A little bit of leaven, mixed into the life of the world.

Because he knew and trusted in the hidden power of his Father’s Kingdom, Jesus never bothered to do battle according to the ways of the world. Instead of lobbing grenades, he lobbed parables. Instead of amassing an army, he gathered a small group of fisherman. He taught them to put away their swords and turn the other cheek.

From a worldly perspective, Jesus wasn’t a very successful monarch. He didn’t secure a physical Kingdom for himself. Nor did he amass power or wealth.

And in the end, he died a terrible death on a cross. All alone.  Wearing only a crown of thorns.

It looked as though the Kingdom of this world had overcome the Kingdom of heaven. But in reality, the cross and the subsequent empty tomb was the means through which God overcame the world through the power of his hidden Kingdom.

Everyone who came to Jesus in faith was transformed by the mustard seed power at work within him. Everyone who rubbed shoulders with him, experienced the leaven of life.

You can’t point to Christ’s Kingdom on a map today. There is not Christ-landia anywhere. But my goodness, the movement he started has brought such life to the world.  h

Armed only with the Spirit, and the gospel message, the 12 apostles bore witness to the Kingdom in their speech and life. And through their witness, thousands came to submit their life to the Lordship of Jesus. The Apostle Paul spread mustard seeds all over the Mediterranean. And slowly trees began to grow. In fact, in three short centuries, Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman empire. How did that happen? It happened through prayer, and the ministry of the word. It happened because Christians silently shared their possessions and took care of the poor. And the yeast of the Kingdom spread throughout the whole region.

The Church, as an institution and a movement, has outlasted every philosophical trend. It has outlasted every other King and Kingdom. And whenever someone tries to take out the Church, she grows even faster. Why is this? Because there is a hidden power at work in the Church. The Kingdom of God.

We may not always feel like a powerful community, eh. We limp along. Our numbers shrink. Its hard to see how the Church is ever going to survive the wave of secular humanism that is so strong in Canada right now.

And what do we have going for us? All we do is lift high the name of a homeless middle eastern man from the 1st century. All we do is eat little bitty pieces of bread and sip little shot glasses of juice. Where’s the power in that?

And yet, slowly and often silently, hearts continue to be transformed and knees continue to bow. Globally, the realm of God’s effective will continues to grow.

One of my favourite modern day examples of this parable took place in the German city of Leipzig, during the 1980s. 

At the height of the Cold War, Pastor Christian Fuhrer began a Monday night prayer service at his Church in East Germany.

The Communist authorities were particularly brutal at this time, and the people were suffering. So, not knowing what else to do, Pastor Christian started a prayer service. The goal was simple. Let’s get together and pray for peace.

The prayer service had humble beginnings. Just a few parishioners gathered every week. 5 to 10, depending on the week.

But as the persecution got worse, the prayer service began to grow. Soon, hundreds of people were crowding into Saint Nicholas Church on Monday nights. So Pastor Christian expanded the service. He began to teach the sermon on the mount.

In October of 1989, a few thousand people attended the Monday night prayer service. They couldn’t all fit in the doors. The prayer service cascaded onto the street. And afterwards, these worshippers joined a non-violent march to the centre of town.

A month later, the wall that separated East Germany from West Germany was torn down.

No tanks. No guns. It all started because a group of Christian’s came together to pray. And less than a decade later, the birds were perching in that prayer service’s branches.

Brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast mixed into dough.

Don’t underestimate the power of these little things. Just because God’s Kingdom is largely invisible doesn’t mean that its non-existent. There is power in the seed we carry and plant. The is yeast potential in the Spirit that gives rise to our life. And that life is spread, simply and surprisingly, through prayer, suffering, and the ministry of the word.

The early disciples needed to have their imaginations reshaped by this parable. Perhaps we need to have our imaginations reshaped as well.

This past week, 33 youth and their leaders worshipped and slept at our Church. In the evening, Ashley and the worship team planted the seeds of the gospel. During the day, this team functioned like leaven in our city.

They were easy to see, because they all had yellow shirts on. But if they weren’t wearing their yellow shirts, they would have simply blended into the background. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you wouldn’t notice that they were there. You wouldn’t see what they were doing.

And yet, there they were, serving the Lord and serving the world. The hidden Christian submitting to Jesus’ call to serve, and expanding the realm of God’s effective will in our city.

Don’t underestimate what took place here. We don’t know how the seed will grow. But we know that there is power in the seed. And nourishing life in the leaven.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Milestones | Joshua 4:1-9

Dear friends of Jesus Christ,

The crossing of the Jordan is a major milestone in Israel’s journey with God. This is a turning point in their identity as a nation. One chapter is coming to an end. Another is about to begin.

Milestones. I looked that word up in the dictionary this week, and two definitions appeared.

Literally speaking, a milestone is a mile marker. Long ago, before road signs and GPS, people would set up rocks along roads to mark distance.  These stones would let you know how far you had gone and how far you still needed to go. That’s the literal definition of a Milestone.

But the word has a figurative sense too. And in that sense, a milestone is an action or event that marks a significant transition or stage in development.

The Toronto Raptors just won the NBA championship. That’s a milestone for basketball in Canada.

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a bulletin board in Wittenberg, he didn’t think he was nailing up a milestone. But that’s what that document became. It became a turning point in the history of the Church.

Milestones divide our lives into befores and afters. When you graduate high school you leave the road that your teachers and parents have paved for you. And now you begin to take on more responsibility for yourself and your own future. When you get married, you leave the single life behind and enter a life of journeying closely with another. Life changes when you have a baby. Life changes when you get new job, move to a new city, or retire.

These are milestone moments.

We also have milestones in our life of Faith. Like baptism. Profession of Faith. Or that moment you decided to trust more deeply and you took a courageous step of faith, not knowing whether God would part the waters or make you swim.

The crossing of the Jordan was a Faith and Life milestone for the people of Israel. There they were, looking out across the river at the land of Canaan. The promised land. The land that God told Abraham to step out towards in faith. 

Think of the journey that they had been on to get this point. They were slaves in Egypt for 400 years, and then a man named Moses arrived on the scene. “God has heard your cries,” Moses said, “and he has come to rescue you.” The people didn’t know much about this God. But they learned about him as they watched him work. They witnessed the plagues. And the way that God strong armed Pharaoh into letting them go.

On the banks of the Red Sea, they saw Moses raise up his staff and they saw God part the water. At the base of mount Sinai, they saw Moses come down from the cloud with the law in hand.

Some of them were little babies when they first arrived on the Eastern Side of the Jordan River. They watched their parents bicker and complain to Moses. At that time, no one trusted God to give them the land. Everyone was too afraid to fight the giants that lived there. So God sent them packing—back into the wilderness for 40 more years.

And now, with Joshua as their leader, and a new generation come of age, they are back.

This time, they’re ready.

“Consecrate yourselves,” Joshua said to the people. “Purify yourselves, body and soul. For in three days we will cross the Jordan and enter the land.”

Its interesting, I think, that Israel’s primary way of preparing for battle, in this instance, involves purification and not target practice. The Israelites aren’t sharpening their swords as they wait. Rather, they are throwing out their idols and confessing their sins.

Their primary concern now is to be God’s set-apart people. A people ready to inherit the land.

In addition to telling Israel to consecrate themselves, Joshua instructs the people to keep their eyes on the Ark. And to follow it, wherever it goes.

If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you’ll remember that the Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of God’s presence. It contained the two tablets of the law in its chambers.

When Joshua says “Keep your eyes on the ark.” What he means is: Keep your eyes on God. Go where God goes. Trust that where God goes, you must go too.

After three days or purification, the priests carry the Arc to the edge of the River Jordan. Now, the River, we’re told in chapter 3, was at flood stage.

Today, the Jordan river is but a trickle. Its been drained for irrigation. But back then, the Jordan, at flood stage, could have been about a mile across.

And the banks are steep, people. I stood on the edge of those ancient river banks. The Jordan wasn’t a river that you could easily wade into. Either you were in, or you were out.

And now the priests are at the banks, ready to take that step of faith.

Years earlier, at the banks of the Red Sea, God pushed the water back before anyone got their feet wet.

But things are different at the Jordan. Here, God doesn’t stop the flow until all the priests are in the water.

The crossing of the Red Sea was an act of pure power and grace. The crossing of the Jordan is an act of power and grace too. But its also an act of faith. Israel has to get into the water before God stops the flow. We see here that Israel is starting to get this partnership with God thing. She is moving from being simply a recipient of God’s power, to being an active participant in God’s story.

Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but I find it helpful. What if we thought of the  crossing of the Red Sea as like Israel’s baptism. That was the moment when God claimed them, and made them his special people. And now here, at the Jordan, this is a little like Israel’s profession of Faith. Here, they are owning their identity. And beginning to walk in Faith, trusting that God will open the way.

And that’s exactly what God does. Once the priests step in, the water backs up. And this enabled all the people to walk through on dry ground.

When everyone had crossed over, Joshua had 12 men return to the river to pick up 12 stones. And then he had them build a monument at the place where they camped that night.

“This is to be a sign for you and your children,” says Joshua. “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.” (Joshua 4:6-7)

Human memory is a fickle thing. What is so clear one day, is foggy the next. And what is significant for one generation is often forgotten by the next.

Sometimes we need to set up milestones in order to remember.

This is why we pin poppy’s to our chest every year in early November. It helps us remember. This is why we give engraved crosses as gifts to people who have been baptized in our Church. And little candles to those who have professed their faith. We want them to remember. And when they are asked why their name is on a cross, they have an opportunity to share the story.

You can just imagine a little Israelite boy asking his mom:

“What do these stones mean, Mom?”

“Oh let me tell you son. When I was a girl, I passed through this river on dry ground. They are here to remind us that we are God’s set-apart people. They are here to remind us that this land is a gift and the we need to keep our eyes on the Lord.”

For us who live on the far side of the resurrection, this milestone marker takes on deeper significance. For it not only reminds us of God’s faithfulness shown to Israel in the past. But of God’s faithfulness shown to us in and through Jesus Christ.

Some see this scene as a metaphor for our salvation in Christ. Israel’s exiting the wilderness and entering the promised land, they say, is a picture that can help us imagine our leaving the trouble of earth and entering the rest of heaven. Sometimes we speak of “going over Jordan” as passing from life on earth to life with God.

There may be some of that in this text. But its important to remember that a battle awaited the Israelites on the other side of this river. They weren’t crossing over into heavenly bliss. Rather, starting out on a new adventure in Faith.

The New Testament connection that I draw to Joshua 3 and 4, is Pentecost, and the days that take place before and after the coming of the Spirit.

Jesus disciples didn’t know what was happening, right? They knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. And they heard Jesus say that they should wait in Jerusalem before he ascended into heaven. But that’s about all they knew.

But they trusted Jesus, and they kept their eyes on him. And so the consecrated themselves by waiting and praying in the temple.

And then finally, the Spirit came, and it was time for them move.

Peter is the first to step out into the river. He is the first to profess his faith. The other disciples follow after him. And by the power of God and the apostles testimony, a way opened up for many others to enter the Kingdom of God that day.

And it wasn’t that the work was over when the sun had set on pentecost. No, in very real sense, the adventure with God had just begun.

But what was created on Pentecost was a community of people who were walking by faith, consecrating themselves through repentance, and keeping their eyes on Jesus. And they became the means through which the gospel was spread in every direction, all around the world.

Baptism became the milestone marker of their life together in Christ. And the Lord’s supper became the weekly way that they re-told the story of the cross and the empty tomb, and the meaning behind it all.

I love when I get to celebrate the Lord’s supper with my kids. Its an opportunity to share the story. “What’s this bread about, dad?” my daughter will ask. 

Oh, it reminds us that Jesus died to forgive our sins. Like the bread is broken. So was Jesus broken to forgive us. It’s also a little taste of that big supper we’ll one day enjoy with him when he returns. And you know what? Jesus gives it to us today, because he wants to strengthen us as we serve him in this world.

Brothers and sisters. I don’t know what milestones or significant transitions you are wading through right now.

Maybe one chapter has come to end in your life and another is beginning. And so you’re setting up a stack of milestones in order to remember and celebrate the path that God has taken you.

Maybe you’re on the banks of the Jordan, praying and waiting, not sure of what’s next.

Or maybe you’re stepping out in Faith. Trusting God to make a way. Trying to keep in step with Jesus through the power of the Spirit.

Wherever you are, know that you by Grace, and through Faith, you are a participant in what God is doing in the world through his Son and His Spirit. He continues to open up pathways for mission in his Kingdom.

Will you participate in what he is doing? Will you step out in adventurous faith and join him in his mission of restoring the lost as his children and the world as his Kingdom?

Keep you eyes upon Jesus. Go where he goes. And by Grace and through faith, he will lead to life everlasting in his Kingdom.

Amen.

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Build Your House Here | Matthew 7:24-29

Dear Friends of Jesus Christ,

To live is to build. Each day, through your choices and habits, you are building up a life—like a stone mason pieces together a house.

You can’t check out of this process. And you can’t defer this building responsibility to someone else. To live is to build.

And its serious business, really, this building a life. Serious, first of all, because you have to live in the house that you build. If you cut corners now, future you will have to deal with a leaky roof or a faulty foundation. If you start bad habits now, future you is going to have to try to get out of them.

Its also a serious business because the world is hard on life as it is on houses. Wind. Rain. Floods. Persecution, sickness, betrayal. How will your life fare when its hit by hardship?

These are the kinds of questions and conversations that Jesus wants us to have. He ends his sermon by imploring us to build wisely. To construct our lives upon him, and his word.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7:24-27

Its a super simple little parable. It features two builders. One wise. The other foolish. They both have access to the same good design and sturdy foundation. They both hear Jesus words with their ears. But only one builds to code. Only one from moves from hearing to doing. The other tries his luck on the sand. 

Which builder are you?

You know, for the last 9 months we’ve been listening to Jesus. At a snails pace we’ve been analyzing the finer points of his great sermon.

We have heard with our ears.

And if you couldn’t join us on Sunday mornings, then you still have your Bibles. Jesus’ wise counsel is not hidden behind firewalls. You don’t need a monthly subscription to access his design for life. A quick google search will land you 50 different translations of the Sermon on the Mount, and 50 different commentaries. All free.

We have access. We have heard. Now what?

Will you wisely put his teaching into practice and so build a life that lasts? Or, will you say:  “good sermon, Jesus” “Very inspiring” and then go on building your life however you please.

You can really see Jesus’ heart for his disciples here at the end of the sermon on the mount. He’s not threatening them with this call to trust and obey. Rather, he deeply desires that they become fully alive, living lives that matter; lives that are mature; lives that last. He challenges them because he loves them.

And what good words these are. These are words to live by. Words that lead to life.

I’m going to do a quick review of Jesus’ sermon and its main points. I want to paint a portrait for you, of a man who builds his house upon the rock. I’ll use masculine pronouns today, to describe this person, because it’s Father’s day. And wouldn’t we be blessed if the Father’s of our Church took the lead in putting these words into practice. But this teaching isn’t just for men. Its for all of us.

How Happy in God is the person that comes to God empty handed, knowing himself a beggar. He will be filled up.

He weeps over the brokenness he finds in his life and in the world. And he receives comfort in the gospel of Jesus’ death, resurrection and imminent return. 

He has learned to not think of himself more highly than he ought, but is content to be a servant of the Lord.

This person hungers and thirsts for things to made right—in himself and in this world. And in the end, when God’s kingdom comes, he will be satisfied.

He is so gentle and patient with others. Eager to extend grace.

This person’s singular passion in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And he will receive the desire of his heart.

He is a peacemaker. Not just a peace-lover, or peace-keeper. But his art-form is to enact peace in his areas of influence.

He endures persecution with joy, knowing that his saviour and Lord endured persecution for his sake too.

This person accepts the scriptures as God’s word, and accepts Jesus interpretation of that word as authoritative.

He not only refrains from breaking the 6th commandment, but is actively seeking to root out hatred and anger from her life.

He not only is refraining from committing adultery, but is fighting off lust like death. He is faithful to his spouse, till death do them part.

When this person speaks, he doesn’t twist or manipulate his words. You can always count on him to tell the truth.

He refuses to fight back. And insists on repaying evil with good.

This person loves as God loves. He loves his friends and his enemies. He prays for those who persecute him and blesses those who curse him.

Well aware of the dangers of hypocrisy, this man chooses to practice his faith in secret, more than he practices in public. When he gives, prays, and fasts, he makes sure that no one is watching except the one who sees what is done in secret.

He forgives, just as in Christ, God forgave him.

This man’s life is not defined by the pursuit of things that rust or are chewed away by vermin. Rather, his sights are set on heaven. And Instead of wasting time worrying about what he will eat and drink, or about his body, what he will wear, he trusts God and seeks first God’s Kingdom.

This man doesn’t peck away at the faults of others. He knows that’s a game that everyone loses. Instead he focusses on his own sins and invites others to help him grow in holiness. And as he walks that path, he becomes an encourager to others who are walking with him.

Not content to sit on his hands, this man pursues the things that matter. He asks, seeks, and knocks. And as he moves out into the world in faith, he finds that, in time, God answers, gives, and opens doors in God’s time.

Its not hard to spot this man. Though his faith and witness is not flashy, his life is directed towards Jesus Christ and the narrow way that leads to life. And when the season is right, you will find the fruit of righteousness hanging from his branches. His house is always full of guests. The neighbours flock there during storms.

Wise is the man who builds his house upon the rock.

Brothers and sisters. This is life as it is meant to be lived. This is a portrait of maturity.

The Psalmist says: How happy is the one who avoids the scoffers and the sinners. How happy is the one who delights in the law of the Lord. They will be like a tree planted by the water. 

To embody Jesus sermon is to live in sync with the grain of creation and to harmonize with the coming Kingdom of God.

And the best example I can give you today of someone who lived this way is Jesus Christ himself.

He was so pure in heart. So content to be on mission with his Father and to fulfill the task laid out for him.

He humbly got in line with all the other sinners who were going out to the Jordan to be baptized by John, and his Father filled him up with his Spirit.

In the desert he was tempted by the devil. But he didn’t succumb to temptation. Instead, he responded calmly, and clearly with the Word of the Lord, his only weapon.

He showed mercy to the adulterous woman, and yet, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, he drove the money changers out of the temple courts.

Jesus was a maker of peace. making peace. He made peace between heaven and earth through his blood which he poured out on the cross. And he makes peace between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free. He incorporates them all into his body.

It looked like Jesus’ house had been taken down by the flood waters of sin and rebellion. But  in reality, all the storms did was reveal that Jesus’ life was rooted on a much deeper and stronger foundation. His house was built upon the source of life itself, and God raised Jesus from the dead.

And now he calls to us. And he imparts to us his righteousness and perfection through faith. And he pours out his Spirit upon us.

And he says: Come and join me in living a life that matters. Join me in being salt and light in a dark and spoiling world. Put into practice my words and so become a neighbourhood that glorifies the architect’s name.

Jesus is encouraging us to action today. This is a call to action.

But I think we all know that action is difficult. Its one thing to buy the treadmill. Its another thing to actually get on the treadmill. Its one thing to have healthy food in the house, its another thing to eat healthy food. Its one thing to have a rock solid building plan, its another thing to actually build according to plan.

And I know, I feel it in myself too… Just because we spent 9 month studying the sermon on the mount, doesn’t mean that we’re instantly going to become a community of wise men and women.

It takes practice. And time. What matters is not that you make fast progress. What matters is that you continue to let Jesus reshape your living with his words.

My daughter Abigail is currently learning how to crawl. She’s not good at it yet, but she’s trying. As her Father, I want her to make progress. Its important that she learns to crawl. Its important that she learns to talk and walk. I want to continue to encourage her down the path of maturity.

But man, am I having fun watching her try. It is pure joy to watch her step out and try something new. And when she lands on her face, I laugh and pick her back up again. “That was so awesome, try again.”

And so it is with us and our Father in heaven. We bring him joy not because we’ve reached a milestone or can now pray for our enemies. We bring him joy, simply because we belong to him, in Christ his son. We are his and he is ours.

And so, as we begin to crawl towards Christ-likeness, you can bet that he’s cheering us on. And when we fall on our faces, he’s there to say: That was so awesome. Now try again. You’re going to get it one of these times.

And over time, with prayer, practice, and support, you will be amazed at the work that God can do in your life.

I wonder….

What section of the sermon on the Mount is Jesus encouraging you to integrate into your life today? Where section is calling your name? And how might you start crawling that direction?

We’re going to spend some moments in silence, to finish this sermon. In this time of silent prayer I encourage you to bring this question to Jesus. Ask him. And then note the places that he takes you.

Let’s pray.

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Streams of Living Water | John 7:37-43

Picture, picture, picture. That was Rabbi George’s favourite phrase. He said it to us, everyday, during our tour of the Middle East.

Pyramid. Picture, Picture, Picture. Temple. Picture, picture, picture. A Shepherd with his flock. Picture, picture, picture.

Its not that George was inviting us to pull out our cameras all the time. What he was doing, rather, was inviting us to look. He wanted to give us eyes so that could see the concept behind the picture. To see through the picture, into the ways of God.

Its amazing just how many pictures God employs to communicate himself and his will.

For instance, in Isaiah we read: “A shoot will rise up out of the stump of Jesse. And from his roots a branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)

That’s a picture. Isaiah could have just said: Look people, God’s won’t forget the covenant he made with King David, Jesse’s son. Things look hopeless now, but you can count on God to raise up a new King. That’s the literal message. But the picture communicates better than literal message.

The same goes for what Isaiah says next about peace:

The wolf will live with the lamb,

    the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

    and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)

Isaiah could have just say: And when that new King Comes, the result of his rule will be peace. That’s what is meant here. But instead of simply telling us, Isaiah paints a picture.

The bible is a long book. I’m sure that with a good editor, God could have distilled the message down to a few thousand words. But he didn’t. A he didn’t because he wanted to give us a lot of pictures. Pictures help us.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

Then I looked out over the valley, and behold, it was filled with dry bones. And then I heard a voice that said: Can these bones live?

Speak to the bones, the voice said.

I did. And the valley of dry bones came to life.

Picture, Picture, Picture.

One picture that shows up a lot in the scriptures is the image of living water.

Now, of course, living water isn’t just a picture in the scriptures, it was also a real and necessary substance. For the Israelite, living water was fresh water. It was water that moved in a river instead of sitting still in an old cistern. It was water that you could drink, and clean yourself in. Living water kept your animals alive and allowed your crops to grow.

So it was a real thing, just like fresh water is a real thing for us. But because of its importance, it also became a picture that God used to describe his ways in the world.

In Ezekiel 47, for instance, Ezekiel is given a vision of a river flowing out of the Temple. Its starts as a trickle. But eventually is grows so deep and wide that it cannot be crossed.

And all along the banks of the river, Ezekiel sees trees sprouting up. These trees are quite remarkable because they produce fruit every month, all year long. And the leaves on the trees produces a balm that brings healing.

What does this picture mean? It’s a picture of God’s Kingdom. And the life and abundance that flows out of the place where God resides.

Picture. Picture. Picture.

And let me tell you that this living water business was a big deal for the ancient Israelite.

Here in B.C. we have living water leaking into our basements. The rain drives us nearly insane for 6 straight months.

But in the middle east, every drop is precious.

This is so stark in Egypt. The nile flood plain is a lush, green place. Can you see the green in this picture. Palm trees. Hay that’s ready to harvest. Its a great place for growing food. But on the other side of the road, where the mountains are, that’s the beginning of the Sahara desert. The contrast is stark when you’re stand on the road. On the right side of the road you have life. On the left, you have death. Stay near the living water and you live. Venture away and you die.

And what did God do in the Exodus story? He took Israel away from the river, and into the wilderness. No wonder they complained about water.

“God brought us out here? Why did he do that? Moses!”

And so Moses, probably thinking the same thing, brought the people’s complaint to God. God told Moses to do something strange. He told Moses to speak to the rock. And he promised that as he spoke, water would come from the rock. But Moses is too angry to speak. And so he beats the rock instead with his staff. And water gushes out.

The Israelites roamed the wilderness of the Sinai for 40 years. They didn’t see a fresh water river or lake that entire time. They only drank what God provided them from the rock. And then, finally, they arrived at the Jordan River, just east of Jericho.

Can you imagine what that was like for them?

My recent tour spent 6 days in the wilderness of Sinai and Jordan. And let me tell you, when we arrived at the Jordan River, we were speechless.

Living water is life.

So its not wonder that the Biblical employ this picture, picture, picture, to speak the truth about God and his Kingdom

The prophet Zechariah jumped on this picture at the end of his message too. He prophesied of a day when the Lord himself would push back the enemies of Israel. And on that day, he said:

“… living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea [Dead Sea] and half to the western sea [Mediterranean], in summer and in winter.” (Zechariah 14:8)

Jerusalem is an elevated city. Its all downhill to the Mediterranean on the west. And its all downhill to the dead sea on the east. So when it rains in Jerusalem, the water washes down to the East and to the West. 

But in Zechariah’s picture, the living water doesn’t just flow during the rainy season. It never stops flowing.

This is a picture of life. And the goodness that flows out of the place where God resides.

So… with that water colour backdrop in mind, lets see if we have eyes to see the picture, picture, picture that Jesus gives in John 7.

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38

Jesus is in the temple as he shouts these words in a loud voice. It was the last and greatest day of the festival, we’re told. The Festival that Jesus was celebrating was the Festival of Booths, also know as the Feast of Tabernacles.

During this festival, the people lived in tents. They camped out. And as the camped, they intentionally remembered how God sustained them in their wilderness after they had exited Egypt. They remembered the manna that appeared every morning. And the water that came from the rock. In Chapter 6, Jesus already referred to himself as the manna which came down from heaven. And now, he’s going to lay claim to the water too.

The Feast of Booths took place at the very end of the dry season. Just after the harvest. And so, just as the people were remembering God’s provision in the wilderness they were also celebrating God’s provision at the harvest.

But this being the end of the dry season, it was also a natural time to start praying for rain. We feel something of this urgency for rain at the end of our dry season too. In late August our whole Island is parched.

But it’s even worse in Israel. Their dry season is much longer there. So, all through the Festival, they would pray for rain.

In fact, each day, a solemn processional would take place. The Priest would lead a group of people down to the spring at Gihon. The priest would dip a golden pitcher of water into the pool. As he did that the choir would sing a song based on Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

Then the processional would return to the temple through the water gate. The priest would take his place behind an altar, and pour out the water into a silver funnel. The water would then flow out on the ground. On the 7th day, the greatest day of the feast, this processional would happen again, except the Priest would walk around the altar 7 times before pouring out the living water.

Now… imagine you’ve just participated in this processional. Its hot. Its dry. You’ve prayed the prayers and sang the songs. You saw the water being poured out by the priest. And then, all of a sudden, you hear someone cry out in a loud voice. Is anyone thirsty? Let whoever is thirsty come to me and drink. For whoever believes in me… they will have living waters flow from within them.

Needless to say, Jesus words caused quite a stir. “Who is this guy? He already called himself the bread that came down from heaven. And now he’s calling himself the living water. What’s next, the light of the world?”

Some dismissed Jesus as being crazy. But others wondered… “Maybe this person is who he says he is. Do you think he’s the Messiah?”

Let whoever is thirsty come to me and drink. For whoever believes in me, they will have living waters flow from within them.

This is a big picture, people. Jesus is portrayed as the source of living water. An eternal spring welling up in a dry and thirsty land. Those who come to him in faith, he promises, will be filled up and overflowing. And they will now become a source of living water for others.

“Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me and drink. And if you do, streams of living water will flow through you.”

There is much that is amazing about this picture, but let me direct your attention to three things in particular. 

First notice that thirst is the only qualification one needs in order to come and drink.

This means that the only thing you need to have in order, in order to come to Jesus, is an awareness of your need for him. Let me say that again. The only thing you need to have in order, in order to come to Jesus, is an awareness of your need for him.

The gospel invitation as wide open as the world. It is for Jew and Gentile; Male and Female. And every other category of person under the sun.

All you need is to know that you’re thirsty.

And we are thirsty creatures, aren’t we? One of the most universal things you can say about human beings, I think, is that we seek fullness in life. We want satisfaction. And so we try, and we try, and we try, and try. But we can’t get no, satisfaction.

We look for it in… Pleasure, food, alcohol, exercise, academic or career accomplishments, spouse, family, etc. etc…

These things can temporarily quench our thirst. But they don’t satiate in the way we desperately want them too.

The Christian gospel hands out Christ and says drink. Here is the source of life. The only water that truly quenches thirst.

And anyone can come to him. Free of charge.

But you do have to drink in order to experience the life.

And that’s the second thing to notice about Jesus words here. His call to Faith. It is possible, you see, to be aware of your thirst, without actually stopping to drink. Maybe you get distracted by something else. Or maybe you think the water is corrupted somehow, and probably shouldn’t be ingested.

Some who heard Jesus that day came to this conclusion. “We know this guy. They said. We know where he comes from. No living water flows from there.

But others came to him and drank. Zacheaus had a little sip and in his joy, he immediately started giving away all his possessions. Nicodemus was skeptical at first. He came to Jesus at night. He wanted to check the P.H. of this water source.  He left unsure, but eventually he came back. And at the end of John’s gospel, Nicodemus is one of the people who helps Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus’ body down from the cross.

Maybe he saw the blood and water pouring out of Jesus side, and said to himself: Surely this man is the Christ.

To have faith in Jesus is to trust him with your thirst. To build your house upon his words. And to drink, exclusively, the water that he is offering.

And finally, notice what happens to those who come and drink. They themselves become bearers of living water.

Zechariah imagined a day in which living water would flow constantly out of Jerusalem, to the east and to the west.

Jesus says that those who come to him in faith, become that stream.

Now the narrator of John’s gospel adds an important little editorial comment here.  By this (streams of living water business) [Jesus] meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. ~ John 7:39

Its like John wants to peel back the curtain for a minute, and tell us what all these pictures mean. “Its not that Jesus is talking about actual water here,” he wants to say. He’s talking about that life that is on offer in him, that he pours out when he sends his Spirit.”

Perhaps its not surprising that the bible uses pouring out language when referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter quotes Joel 2 in his Pentecost sermon. On that day, writes Joel, The Lord will pour out his Spirit.

John the baptist said, “I baptize you with water. But there is one coming after me and I’m not worthy to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Spirit.

So this is a multi-layered picture we’re getting today. But the basic idea is still clear. Jesus is the source that truly brings life. He pours out his thirst quenching blessings on those who come to him in faith. And they in turn, become streams of water in the wilderness.

I have a little more water and a couple cups up front today. I need 3 volunteers. Together, we are going to try to picture the picture, picture, picture that Jesus gives.

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38

Think about the Spirit brothers and sisters. The Spirit which comes from God and is poured out by Jesus himself. What does he give us?

The Spirit gives us new life in Jesus name.

The Spirit reminds us everything Jesus has taught us and makes us more like Jesus

The Spirit knits us into a new community. The Church.

The Spirit empowers us to serve Jesus in the world.

This is why Jesus poured out his Spirit. The there may be streams in the wasteland. New life in the wilderness.

New life. New purpose. God’s kingdom streaming out into the world.

Picture, Picture, Picture.

And you are, or could be apart of today, this stream that continues to proceed East and West from Jerusalem. The river that brings life to the world.

A story to conclude.

In the late 70s and early 80s, Henry Wildeboer was the Pastor at 1st CRC in Calgary. Through Christ’s leadership in that community, and Henry’s faithful witness, a charismatic renewal of sorts took place. The Spirit was poured out.

There was a man named Philip living in Calgary at the time. He was skeptical of this revival. He was an elder at the time too, in a different church. And his consistory sent him over to 1st CRC to monitor the situation.

Philip went into the service skeptical, but he came out filled up by the Spirit.

He went home and the next day he called a family meeting. He shared his experience with his adult children and his young grandchildren. He confessed his sins to them. And asked for their forgiveness.

One of the little grandchildren in that mix was a boy named Trevor. Trevor’s dad was greatly impacted by Trevor’s grandfather’s confession and experience. This impacted Trevor’s life because now his Father was more actively drinking Christ.

Trevor grew up and eventually went to Seminary. Now he’s at the 1st CRC in Vancouver. That Church almost folded, but its been given some new life over the last 10 years. One thing that has happened is that the Church attracted a small group of students studying at Regent College. Trevor and his wife poured into those students and modelled for them what the ministry of the gospel looks like.

Those students are now pouring out living water in cities all over western Canada. Andrew is pastoring in Prince George. Joe and Michelle in Telkwa. Calvin Chen is planting a Church in the Seattle Area.

Trevor and Julia have three sons. They named one of their sons, Philip, after the Grandfather who first drank from the well.

Many of you are here today, because at some point in your life, you crossed paths with someone who had a fullness that was attractive to you. And you came to discover that that fullness came from Christ.

The Spirit-Filled river has not stopped flowing. The water-fall cascaded onto Jerusalem many years ago, and it has been bringing life to the east, and life to the west, ever since. 

Are you thirsty? Come and drink. And you too can be filled up with the living water that brings life.

Amen.

Posted in John, Pentecost, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Real | Matthew 7:15-23

So, I have in my possession today, a bill worth one million dollars. That’s right. One million dollars. I found it the other day while walking down the street. You might say that it was my lucky day.

I thought about putting it in the offering plate, but maybe I’ll take it to the bank first, and see if they can break it into smaller units.

I wonder what the bank teller is going to say when she sees this bill early tomorrow morning. “Congratulations Mr. Salverda. Its not everyday one of our clients comes across a million in cash. You’re rich!” 

That’s one thing she could say.

But my hunch is that the conversations going to go like that. Any guesses what I might be told in the bank tomorrow?

“Counterfeit.” She’ll say “I’m sorry Mr. Salverda, but the Bank of Canada doesn’t stand behind this bill. Someone clearly printed this off the internet. Its actually not that hard to tell. The back side is plain white. Dead giveaway. It also says: ‘this is not legal tender on the front.”

Counterfeit.

The world is filled with counterfeit stuff. Counterfeit sunglasses. Knock-off pants and shirts. Ice cream that isn’t made with real cream. The worst.

I recently bought a little stuffed camel for my daughter, Abigail. I bought it at a market in Jordan, just East of Israel. “Authentic”, the man said to me. “Made in Jordan. Good quality. 20 dollars.”

“Made in Jordan, eh? Well how but I give you a million dollars for it.” That dumb Camel is already falling apart.

Sometimes its easy to spot the difference between the real and the counterfeit. But other times, it’s not so simple.

This is especially true when it comes to people. We’re good actors. We know how to craft an imagine and massage a message. How do you tell a good politician from a bad one. A Good salesmen from bad salesman. Who is for real and who is a fraud?

Jesus called out our capacity for hypocrisy earlier in the sermon on the mount, and he returns to that theme now. Clearly, Jesus has a strong aversion to all things counterfeit.

Beware of false prophets, he says. They come dressed in sheep’s clothing. They will look and sound like they belong. But in reality, they are ferocious wolves.

And not all who testify that they belong to the Lord, are actually living in obedience to the Lord. Outwardly, they may look the part. But in reality, I never knew them.

How do you tell the difference between the real and the counterfeit. Answer: You will know them by their fruit.

“False prophets”. Jesus warns his disciples about them here. And in basically every New Testament book after Matthew, the warning is issued again.

In Galatians, for instance, Paul tells the Christian community to have nothing to do with the Judaizers. These people were preaching that Christ wasn’t sufficient. They thought that people needed Jesus and that they needed to submit to various parts of the law of Moses in order to be saved. And so Paul calls those false preachers out, and tells the Church to remain rooted in the gospel that they received.

And Peter, in 2nd Peter warns the Church to avoid people who deny the sovereign Lord and the way of the sovereign Lord in the world. Adulterers, Peter calls them. Living for their own pleasure. Greedy for personal gain.

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah says this about False Prophets:

“They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ Jeremiah 23:16-17

In other words, false prophets speak their own thoughts when they should be proclaiming God’s thoughts. In Jeremiah’s day, they were conjuring up words of comfort when they should have been calling people to repentance.

Frederick Dale Bruner makes a good observation in his commentary on this text. He connects this teaching on False prophets with Jesus prior teaching on the narrow gate. And he says that a false prophet is one who makes the gate broader that it should be or narrower than it should be. They say that something other than Jesus is needed to enter the Kingdom, or they say that Christ is not really the only way to enter God’s Kingdom. False prophets fail the Christ alone doctrinal test. But they also fail the ethical test. For the preach a broad road to life instead of calling people to pick up their cross and follow Jesus down the narrow way.

A true prophet’s message is that salvation is found in Jesus alone. And that the way to life is in obedience to Jesus alone. That’s the narrow gate and difficult path.

Now, not all who miss this Mark in their teaching and preaching are ferocious wolves. Some are just mistaken and need a little correction. But others lead people astray because it is somehow advantageous for them to do so. Those are the wolves.

I read an article in the BBC yesterday. It featured two poor Americans who have given much of their small supply of money to a televangelist, and supposed money expert, named Todd Coontz.

Coontz is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He quotes the bible a lot. He knows how to empathize and communicate with those who are at their wits end. With stories and testimony, he warms people up. And then he makes his pitch.

He calls it seed money. He promises that the funds donated will blossom into a plant and that they will produce a large harvest. All you need is faith, and $273.

Cleary Coontz is a wolf. I mean, its kind of obvious. But Coontz isn’t out to trick the smart sheep. He has his best luck among the rural poor, and the uneducated. He’s skilled at separating them from the herd. And then he sinks in his teeth.

Says Peter of False Teachers: These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 2 Peter 2:17

Two weeks ago, a few elders and deacons were installed at our church. Today, Ralph Ovinge will be installed as an elder.

One of the questions we ask of our ordained leaders is this: 3: Do you subscribe to the doctrinal standards of this church, rejecting all teaching which contradicts them?

I always have a little trouble asking this question. It feels so rigid.

But on the positive side, it does set up a clear obstacle for wolves. Its harder to attack the flock of Jesus Christ, when the flock is well-protected by shepherds.

Its my job, with the elders, to ensure that the narrow gate and way is promoted and that counterfeit messages are exposed and outed. We do not the sheep to be devoured or taken off course from the way that leads to life.

After warning his disciples to watch out for counterfeit teachers, Jesus moves closer to home, and he invites all his sheep, shepherds included, to examine the quality of their own faith and witness.

Not all who say “Lord Lord” are the real McCoy,” says Jesus. “Only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”

Talk is cheap. We all know that. Just because the salesmen says that the Camel is well made, doesn’t mean that that is actually the case. And just because someone claims to be a Christian, doesn’t mean that they are actually seeking to live as a follower of Jesus.

But what’s shocking about Jesus words here is that the people who say “Lord Lord” are not just believers.They are emphatic believers, doing impressive things for the Lord. They are preaching in his name, performing miracles, driving out demons!  And yet Jesus tells them plainly. “I never knew you. Away from me.”

I suppose, that what Jesus wants us to learn from this is that its possible to work for Jesus and yet not be living in communion with him. Its possible to glorify him with your tongue and actions, but not be living under his Lordship in your life.

Here’s an example that might help.

I have noticed something in myself. Maybe you can relate. Sometimes I get convicted that I’m supposed to do something. Something not easy but undeniably the right thing to do.

Let’s say that I have to confess something to my wife, for instance. That’s a hard thing to do. In fact, in a way, it would be easier for me to be really nice to her for a whole week instead. To serve her. To do the after dinner dishes and take the kids out of the house for an afternoon. Anything but confess my wrong.

But meanwhile, as I’m doing all kinds of nice things for my spouse, I’m avoiding the hard work that I know I’m supposed to do.

And so, even though I’m going above and beyond to be a Christ-like husband, I’m actually living quite far away from Jesus himself.

But. Lord, Lord! Look at all that I’ve done. I cleaned the house. I changed the baby’s diaper and took out the garbage.

But Jesus isn’t impressed by our resume. Not even when it includes signs and wonders. And that’s especially the case if our resume of works is really just a way to avoid the narrow path that he has called us down.

Jesus could call you to preform miraculous healings and preach boldly in this name. But ordinarily, what he requires from us is not flashy. He calls us to turn the other cheek. Forgive the offender. Fight off lust and live faithfully. Be a peacemaker.

A poor application of this teaching would be to look around the room and say to yourself: “I wonder who here is a real disciple, and who here is counterfeit. I have my suspicions.”

No, once again, Jesus calls us to look at our own heart first.

This said, it should be noted that the truth usually and eventually does reveal itself. This is true for counterfeit prophets and disciples. For eventually a tree produces fruit. And then the character of the plant is on display.

You won’t ever find juicy grapes growing out of a thorn-bush, or sweet figs hanging off of thistles. It can be hard to tell at first. What kind of plant is that? Is that a lettuce shoot? Or is it a weed?

But in time, it gets easier to determine the real from the counterfeit.

The fruit of justice and righteousness is seldom seen in Todd Coontz’s life. The couple who donated their money to him last year recently called his ministry in need of some help. They got voicemail. Last year, Coontz was arrested for committing tax fraud. His Church, Rockwealth Ministries is still accepting donations, however.

By their fruit, you will recognize them.

People who are walking by the Spirit, says Paul, will produce the fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Whereas those who are controlled by their sinful nature produce something else.… “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Galatians 5:19-20

The life of a tree is made apparent in the fruit that it bears. The results of a teaching or the heart of a person is made apparent in the fruit that it bears.

This past Friday, one of our own passed away. Harry Neutel. And on Tuesday, we will gather here again to remember his life, and celebrate the hope that is his and ours through the death and resurrection of our faithful saviour Jesus Christ.

Harry was not a flashy Christian. Not one to say “Lord Lord” or to haul out a list of his acts of service. But as his family attested to me yesterday, and as most of us experienced in person, Harry was the real deal, and not counterfeit.

How can we know for sure? Well, the fruit of love, was evident in his life.

And so it is for all those who quietly walk the narrow way, with and under Jesus, on the road that leads to life.

And speaking of Jesus. I think its safe to say that the world has never encountered a more real human being. There is nothing fraudelent of phony about Jesus. Despite constant pressure to do otherwise, Jesus never departed from the will of his Father in heaven

And despite ample opportunity to roll his eyes and move on, Jesus stayed connected to the ones God called him to serve. He served both enemy and friend. He died for both enemy and friend. And here we are today, still seeking to align our living with his.

Abide in me, says Jesus, and you will bear much fruit. This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit. But apart from me, you can do nothing.

Amen.

Posted in Matthew, Sermon on the Mount, Uncategorized | Leave a comment