Do you love me more than these?

Sermon title – Do you love me more than these?

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Believing without seeing

Sermon title “Believing without seeing”.

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Grace is not cheap.

Sermon title – Grace is not cheap.

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Who do you think you are?

Sermon title – Who do you think you are?

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Who caught whom?

Sermon title – Who caught whom?

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Intense words from Jesus

Sermon title – Intense Words from Jesus

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Not yet

Sermon title – Not yet…..

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Conflicting goals

Order of Service:

Call to worship

Prayer

Hymn CH4 83 I rejoiced when I heard them say (verses 1&2)

Scripture readings (scroll down to read the text of the readings):

Old Testament Leviticus 23: 33-36; 42-43

New Testament John 7: 1-19

Hymn CH4 83 For the peace of all nations, pray (verses 4&5)

Sermon Conflicting goals (scroll down to read the sermon text)

CH4 641 Seek ye first the kingdom of God (verses 1&3)

Prayer

Hymn CMP 249 How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him

Benediction

Scripture readings:

Leviticus 23: 33-36; 42-43

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord.  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

John 7: 1-19

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.  Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.  So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing.  For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”  For not even his brothers believed in him.  Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.  You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”  After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.  The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”  And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.”  Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.  The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”  So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

Sermon : Conflicting goals

Disagreement between siblings. It’s a normal thing and we have it here in the home of Jesus and his brothers. They give their eldest brother advice. That advice is to go to Judea as the Feast of Booths is about to be begin. As we heard through our Old Testament reading, this feast is celebrated as it is required and spelled out by God in the Law given to Moses, so that generations will always remember that God had led the Israelites out of Egypt and that they wandered in the desert for forty years, dwelling  in booths.

It may be that Christians feel this feast is not relevant to them, as we don’t celebrate it, but what is relevant is the preciseness with which God specifies timing of His requirements; the details He put in His words, His instructions to Moses.

That is how God is. He still works, creates through exact timing and particulars.

The reason for the brothers’ advice to Jesus is that the pilgrimage feast will be the ideal opportunity for Him to make Himself known, to get publicity.

‘No one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly’, the brothers say to Jesus. In their eyes, Jesus shouldn’t miss His chance to promote Himself.

Jesus had done works before in Judea. Earlier in John’s Gospel it says,

Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing (John 3:22)

In the following chapter it says,

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John  (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),  he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. (John 4:1-3)

Jesus seems to avoid confrontation with the Pharisees, the Jewish religious authorities. But it’s not avoiding, it’s postponing.

Meanwhile, His brothers think that keeping doing things in secret, doesn’t go with wanting to be heard. You’ve got to go publicly. They understand that the purpose of the signs Jesus can do is to point to who Jesus is, to Himself. Hence the urge to put Himself in the spotlight. That’s straightforward thinking; thinking that makes sense.

But in the midst of that reasoning, the eldest brother holds back; He doesn’t think in the way His brothers think, ‘My time has not come yet, but Your time is always here.’

Now what does that mean?

What Jesus means is that timing of what He does; of what is to happen to Him comes from His Father. It has nothing to do with a desire for success for Himself.

When Jesus speaks about timing, He points to His last hour on earth; when that time has come. What Jesus has in mind is what God has in mind for Him: His suffering and dying. All will go according to God’s plan and time.

And so He differs from His brothers. His agenda differs from His brothers’ agenda. They can stick to their own. Unlike Jesus, they are not being hated and therefore they’re not in danger. They can go as a family to Jerusalem, without Him.

Plans. Arrangements. Purposes. Timing. God’s and ours. They cause suspension and tension, don’t we all know it? And here we’re told that Jesus’ family struggle with that too.

A story with which more people may be familiar is the story of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus and his mother Mary were guests. The host, the groom ran out of wine, which was terribly embarrassing for him.  Mary knew and stepped in by going to her eldest son urging Him to help them. The reply she got from her son was:

Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2: 4)

The painful distancing by Jesus from his mother, already began when He was in the temple as a twelve year old boy. After the celebration of the Passover Feast, Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem, learning from the teachers about the law of Moses, keen on learning more about God Himself; discovering. When Mary and Joseph found him there after three days of looking for him, Jesus says,

‘Did you not know that I have to be in my Father’s house’?  (Luke 2: 49)

Painful to hear for Mary and Joseph, this clear statement that it was not Joseph who was the father of Jesus, but that God Himself was Jesus’ Father.

Yet, after speaking to His mother in the way He did, Jesus went obediently with her and Joseph back home to Nazareth.

And at the wedding, after telling His mother that it was not yet His hour, He did help the desperate groom.

And now, after disagreeing with His brothers, Jesus did go to Jerusalem, not publicly but in private. Jesus arrives late at the Feast, to teach.

People had been wondering where He was. He was expected and was talked about. Sought by the religious authorities. The pilgrims have different opinions. There are those who don’t see Him as doing any harm. ‘He’s a good person’, they say. Others say that He leads the people of Israel astray.

In the middle of disagreeing opinions, about the middle of the feast, Jesus appears and teaches at the place where He as a boy was in dialogue with the teachers of the Law of Moses. And now, Jesus interprets the law of Moses in a way that His hearers have never heard before. And then He says,

 “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” (John 7: 16-18)

Jesus’s words point away from Himself, to God; to His Father, from Whom He had come.

This was what was not understood by His brothers. Not yet. Their brotherly advice to Jesus to grab the opportunity to get publicity was rooted in their unbelief, as it says in the passage:

For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5)

They thought in terms of an acknowledgment of Jesus by as many as people as possible. But it was an acknowledgment that had nothing to do with the kind of acknowledgement that Jesus has in mind. For Him, all He said and did happened through and for the Father. That was the essence of His teaching: it was all about His heavenly Father.

Jesus’s brothers’ unbelief didn’t last though. After Jesus’ resurrection, this is what the book of Acts says about them and their mother Mary,

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts: 1:14)

Where does the disagreement between Jesus and His brothers leave us? Hopefully with a realization that there is never room for complacency in our faith in God. Over and over again we need to be found by Him through Jesus. We need to meet Him anew.

Like Jesus’s brothers, we lack belief when we aim for things that are in conflict with what He aims for. His purposes are the same as His Father’s.

In Jesus’ thoughts, words and deeds, we find the Father’s thoughts, words and deeds. They happen with a pace different from the quickness and slickness with which social media can make things happen these days. God’s words are rooted in His Love, Love that is patient, allowing for time, as it allowed time for Jesus’ brothers; as it allows time for us, and for those whom we don’t have time for. God does, in the midst of all that goes against Him and against all that He does, He doesn’t let go His purpose, the purpose of creating a Kingdom in which all His children have a place.

Let seeking that Kingdom be our purpose, for His Name’s sake.

Amen

First things first

Order of Service

CMP 295 I serve a risen Saviour (verse 1)

Call to worship

Prayer

Hymn CH4 334 On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry (verses 1&5)

Scripture readings:

Exodus 12: 5-13

John 1: 19-34

Hymn CH466 Before the throne of God above (verses 1&3)

Sermon First things first (scroll down for sermon text)

Hymn I watch the sunrise (2 verses)

Prayer

Music

Benediction

CMP 295 I serve a risen Saviour (verses 2&3)

Last week we heard the passage that tells about the twelve year old boy Jesus. He is in dialogue with His teachers, in the temple. And then, Jesus’s parents appear, distressed and also relieved, as they had been looking for Jesus for three days. And this is what happens,

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

(Luke 2:49-51)

As parents, Mary and Joseph are naturally concerned about Jesus’s wellbeing. But  Jesus Himself points to a different kind of wellbeing, that comes from a different kind of relationship: the relationship between Him and His Heavenly Father.

Jesus is learning and discovering who He is and that is a process that doesn’t happen without tension. The fact that He went with Mary and Joseph back home, to Nazareth, obediently, while being aware who His true Father was, gives that sense of tension that Jesus must have felt.

It is not so much that Jesus’s first priority is to be in His Father’s house as the building. What He means is that He first and above all stands in relationship with His heavenly Father. That relationship, that is what is given first priority by Jesus.

John the Baptist and Jesus.

Their mothers are cousins. The two boys come from very different backgrounds. Joseph is a carpenter and Jesus would, as eldest son, have had to play His part and would have been given responsibilities.

John’s father is a priest. His name is Zechariah and therefore John should actually be called Zechariah too. But the old Zechariah, whose wife had passed the time that she could have children, had been visited by a messenger from God. And this messenger gave him this message: ‘Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.’

Zechariah was given both a promise and an instruction, from above: the promise that to him and Elizabeth, his wife, a son would be born. And with this promise, the instruction came, to call him John. And to this promise and instruction these words were added,

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,  and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. (Luke 1:14-17)

 In our New Testament passage, we find the grown up John, in dialogue with the authorities of Jerusalem.

The official representative in the world, appointed by God, versus the official representatives of the Jewish religious authorities.

What this tells us is that John is known for what he says and does in the spirit of Elijah and, that he’s being watched by the officials in Jerusalem.

And now John is asked by this delegation from Jerusalem: ‘Who are you?’

He could of course say, I am John, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. However, given his birth story, that answer would not say who he really is. It wouldn’t clarify what he says and does. It had been foretold to Zechariah that John would be great before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah. Yet, it is emphasized that he’s neither Elijah nor the Prophet, nor Christ. ‘So, who are you? We need you to legitimize yourself, for Jerusalem wants an answer to that question’.

Well, there are questions in life that don’t have a straightforward answer. What John the Baptist says and does as a grown man, is shaped by his call from God; by the purpose God had for him even before he was born. And that purpose cannot be grasped by human intelligence; by human logic. It can only be grasped in the light of John’s birth story, as it was created from above.

The prophecy by the angel Gabriel, to his father Zechariah was proof that a completely new beginning; a new page in Israel’s history; in its salvation story with God, had begun, in Jesus.

John the Baptist is like a converging fire glass. He says in his way what the prophets had said before him. Like them, he doesn’t yet name Jesus Christ. The prophet Malachi says:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1)

John points to the same Lord, when he says,

“I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:26)

All this happens in Bethany, across the Jordan. The same place where under leadership of Joshua, Israel crossed the Jordan to enter the promised land. The same place where later Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead. At that place Jesus appears the next day. Seeing Him, John says:

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

The lamb.

That takes us to the offerings that the Old Testament tells us about.

When we talk about offerings it’s usually the offering during our church service that we have in mind. The word offering isn’t associated with the slaughtering of an animal for offering. Not in Western thinking.

John, however, being a descendant from the tribe of Levi, John’s mind is so familiar with the lamb that is slaughtered. He’s grown up with what it says in Leviticus,

“If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he shall bring a female without blemish and lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering. Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. And all its fat he shall remove as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar, on top of the Lord’s food offerings. And the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.” (Leviticus 4:32-35)

And there is the Passover lamb as we find it in our Old Testament reading of today.

While they came from different family backgrounds, John and Jesus shared their deep knowledge of these passages.

And it would have become clearer and clearer to Jesus, that He was the lamb to be offered for the sins of the world.

A child asks her mother: ‘Why do we close our eyes and fold our hands when we pray?’ The mother’s answer is: ‘then you can think of Jesus on the cross and not be distracted.’

There is so much to see, so much to know. And so much can be seen and known so quickly. Social media has made possible what once was impossible. And it’s good that through technology we can see each other, now we cannot meet physically; that education can to a certain extent be continued, under these circumstances.

Yet, the same time, what we can see and are able to do through that same social media…can drown out what we need to hear first.

Did you not know that I have to be in my Father’s House?

The first words that the child Jesus spoke in the temple, with which He puzzled His parents Mary and Joseph, the words that He spoke and meant,

Do you not know that He comes first?

Do we let Him come first? Do we know that hearing His word brings about a different kind of wellbeing, in the midst of the storms in our lives?

A wellbeing that is called peace?

Paul points to the prophet Isaiah when he says,

Isaiah says: ‘Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing though the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

First things first.

Amen