Some of you—ok, maybe only one of you—may not have heard this story before.
Charlie V decided the church needed a new coat of paint, so being an expert with a big heart he decided do it for the cost of the paint. Charlie wanted to save money for the church, so he thinned the paint down. It started to rain when Charlie was halfway through, so he had to find some cover. After the rain stopped, he looked out. He was horrified to see the paint had run in a long series of soggy streaks. While he was still staring aghast at the wall, a voice rang out from heaven: ‘Repaint! Repaint! And thin no more!’
And that’s almost what Matthew’s John the Baptist says in today’s Gospel Reading. He says
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
What do we do when we repent? Firstly, let’s get one thing straight: Repenting isn’t necessarily about guilt and being sorry. When we ‘repent’ we change our way of thinking, we turn around and walk in a new direction. That may mean turning from something that is wrong. But not always. When I’m shopping in Coles, I sometimes realised that I’ve turned into the wrong aisle. So I rethink what I’m doing, and I turn around. That’s repenting too. We all repent all the time.
And what is this kingdom of heaven? It’s what Jesus asks us to pray for:
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Matthew has already give us a glimpse of it. Continue reading
I have been using this blog for sermons almost exclusively for some time, though I used to do more with it. I seem to have gravitated to Facebook. On fb, I posted a review of a very strange novel called Amish Vampires in Space. I didn’t know whether to read it at first; perhaps I was unwise, as it’s a few hours of my life spent to no useful purpose other than to be a warning to others. Here’s the review:
I’ve just finished reading Amish Vampires in Space on kindle. When I (so to speak) turned the last page, I saw the words ‘THERE’S MORE WHERE THIS CAME FROM’. I shall heed this warning.
The ‘more’ refers to the output of a publishing house specialising in Christian sci-fi and fantasy. Who knew? I have also learnt of a further genre: ‘Boots and Buggies’, Christian romance in an Amish setting. Again, who knew…
This novel (and it was novel to me!) is a mashup of all these, with some mild horror thrown in—though not enough to scare the horses, who became vampires too.
It seems to be reasonably accurate in its portrayal of Amish ways, one thing to be thankful for. Though I doubt real futuristic Amish would really get into spaceships flown by ‘Englishers’. Of course, being an example of American Christian fiction, there is a non-Amish ‘normal’ Christian character. ‘Normal’ in this context meaning a US-style evangelical. Of course.
The story behind the book is more interesting, involving a joke title that was taken on for real, but the sassiness of the title doesn’t follow through in the story. Neither does the promise of the cover, which looks like a demented Ellen Degeneres in Amish clothes, dripping with blood. A fascinating premise that sadly goes nowhere in particular.
But if characters having a conversation about grace vs works while running down the length of a spaceship which is infested with vampires interests you, then go ahead. Read. Or not.
We’re starting a new Church Year today, Year A in our three-year cycle. In Year A, most of the Gospel Readings come from the Gospel According to Matthew. As usual, on the first Sunday of a new year we start not at the beginning of the story but at the end.
We heard a snippet from towards the end of Matthew 24 today. Commentators sometimes call this chapter the ‘little apocalypse’ (along with the parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21).
If this is a little apocalypse, is there a ‘big’ apocalypse? Well yes, there is; it’s the Book of Revelation. The word ‘apocalypse’ means ‘revelation’.
These aren’t the only apocalyptic writings in existence. We have the Book of Daniel; but two thousand years ago, there were many other apocalyptic books around the place. Apocalyptic was a type of literature, like science fiction, fantasy or historical fiction.
What is apocalyptic writing about. I’ve said that ‘apocalypse’ means ‘revelation’— but what comes into your mind when you hear those words?
Haggai 1.15b — 2.9
In his argument with the Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says:
Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.
What does it mean to be a ‘child of the resurrection’? Let me mention two things:
- It means to be a person who even in grief or disappointment lives in hope of the living God.
- It means to be someone whose way of life reflects the new life of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
A child of the resurrection is someone whose way of living is marked by the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A child of the resurrection is not determined by the past, by its hurts and slights or even by its abuses. A child of the resurrection lives out of the future, God’s future, God’s new world.
A friend of mine, a child of the resurrection, recently wrote:
…we have the power to change the voices and rewrite the patterns and not make ourselves wrong or soiled or not good enough.…we have to have the courage and believe we are worthy.
A child of the resurrection receives the strength to have this courage and belief through the presence of the living Jesus within.
Let me tell you about the first time I went to church after I gave my life to Jesus. Some of you will know that it was the church of my best friend at school, and that it was an Open Brethren congregation. He’d invited me, and I was glad to go.
I’d been brought up as a nominal Anglican, rarely setting foot inside a church.
The Brethren have a particular style of worship, which includes a weekly Memorial of the Lord’s Supper. So I’m sitting in church, and the bread and wine (real wine!) were passed around the pews. I receive the Lord’s Supper.
Unbeknown to me, this causes quite a flutter of consternation. Who is this teenager who comes to church for the very first time and partakes of the Lord’s Supper?
After the service, my friend comes to me. ‘The elders’ have taken him aside. They want to know who I am. Is your friend a Christian? they ask him? He says he thinks so. He then tells me I have to go and talk to them.
The prophet Joel looks forward to a day when God says
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
‘I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…’ On whom? On the upright, like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel reading? On rogues and scoundrels like the tax collector? What does all flesh mean? How selective will the Spirit be?
Let’s try to answer that as we go to the Gospel reading. Jesus tells a parable, which is a brief story with a sting in the tail. Two men go up to the Temple to pray, probably for one of the times of public prayer, mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
Each one stands alone, and stays apart from any other worshippers. They stand apart because each one is concerned about religious purity. There, the similarity ends. Continue reading
Thoughtful post about why busy people may be part of a local church.
Fantasising about being unfaithful.