One Man's Web
False prophets are two a penny. Just listen to the next ad on TV: Use my product and it will save you, or turn your life around, or.....
Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:15-20
In the drama of his gospel— think of Matthew as a movie— before Jesus actually begins his ministry, Matthew shows us that Jesus is not a false prophet. He shows us Jesus doing the hard yards. He shows him being tested and found trust worthy.
After the temptations, the movie goes on to show Jesus doing some of the very things that he refused to do during the temptations: He does multiply loaves of bread. And while he does not jump off the pinnacle of the temple, he does some very spectacular healing.
And so maybe it's not just what we do that counts, but when... and why... and how. What motivates us?What spirit drives us? How will we live?... Read on >>>>
"Look at those youngfellas over there on the rocks. They're sunning themselves like lizards."
"Well, we've destroyed their whole worldview; maybe there's nothing left to do except to sit on a rock and enjoy what life they can; it's pretty logical really."
"Yeah. It's not as though we have given them anything better to live by. I sometimes think they understand the emptiness and futility of our European culture better than we do."
This is a conversation of 35 years ago; one of those audio snippets which stay with us for life. Sometimes I think my friend and I should have sat down on the rocks ourselves... Read on >>>>
"In Jesus heaven and earth intersect." (Bill Loader)
Matthew's placement of this story says almost as much as the story itself. Immediately before, Jesus tells those who have just confessed he is Messiah of his coming death and resurrection. Immediately afterward, the disciples face an unassailable demon and Jesus, healing the boy, tells again of his death and resurrection.... Read on >>>>
I hope you are not a law abiding citizen....
Jesus did not say, "Abide in the law." He said, "Abide in me!" Don't live according to the law. Live according to me! (John 15:4) That means to live beyond and above the law of the land. It means to livemuch better than the law of the land.
The law of the land is for when things go wrong. "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" was a law to limit revenge when things went wrong. The law is the outer limit of our behaviour.... Read on >>>>
On the cross, after he had promised everything, it was all too much. Despite all his faith Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" He lost his faith at that moment, but it was too late. He was nailed down and tied on. There was no escaping. (Mark 15:34)
Dave and Mary were being flooded out. Their only hope was to go into the river and trust they could float it out and get ashore safely somewhere down stream. Mary was a poor swimmer, so Dave lashed them together. He bound himself to her in a great act of faith and love. He would die with her.... Read on >>>>
My father frequently expressed his sympathy for the Japanese soldiers who had been his mortal enemies. He had worked closely with Japanese POWs, and saw the atrocities of the Second World War largely as a clear outworking of the arrogance of one particular class of the Japanese military. His gentleness ensured that I, born not so long after that war, arrived at university with no prejudice against the Japanese students I met. Instead, I was ambushed by a deep antipathy toward folk of Greek and Italian descent. I did not even suspect this was within me!
There were Greek and Italian fisherfolk in our nearby grain port. And in under the ranges, many of them ran market gardens. I later learned the gardeners had come from several other European countries as well, but comfortable Anglo farmers had conveniently lumped them all together as "Greeks and Italians." I'd never met any of them, but my heart betrayed me.... Read on >>>>
Today I'm trying to describe something that can't really be described. I can't give you the formula. I can only tell you about an experience.
Recently, a friend told me of meeting a Christian monk. "It was like standing next to Jesus!" she said. Holiness just radiates from some people.
Imagine if my friend said, "I'm going to be like him. If I can be like him, surely I'll find God!" If Jesus was speaking to my friend he might have said,"Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of this monk, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!"
Really! Is that what he would say!? Read on >>>>
Also includes audio of my last proof read...
Salt of the earth and light of the world are two images to be interpreted by the Beatitudes. We could argue that the reading of last week should have gone through to verse 16. Because we are blessed we should let our light shine before others. This is the purpose of blessing.
What does it mean to be blessed? I think it is the gift of understanding that the fundamental economy of the world— at all levels, not just human interaction, but especially human interaction— runs on compassion; that is, mercy, and love. The world does not run on riches and hard power. The world completely misunderstands what real power is, and ridicules the power of the cross and Christ crucified.... Read on >>>>
Yesterday I went to see The Railway Man. The inhumanity of the Thai-Burma railway was not a story I was meeting for the first time. Indeed the movie was understated in its portrayal of the violence done to people. "We never tell the whole story because no one would believe us," says one of the characters. Yet even with the little violence shown, I could feel my anger and outrage flaring. I was being invited by something, if not the movie, to hate. To hate with great rage.... Read on >>>>
Matthew presents Jesus as the new and greater Moses of Israel. Here we have the analogue of the Ten Commandments given to Israel. Jesus/Moses climbs a mountain and presents a list of sayings. Almost before reading the text there is a message to be seen: instead of a list of ten commandments there is a list of nine blessings, with a tenth exhortation to rejoice.
We are not a religion of commandments, but a religion of blessings.... We are graced with a Faith of Blessing, not the faith of rule keeping we so often espouse.... Read on >>>>
After John was arrested, Jesus withdrew to Galilee, it says. (4:12) He went home to count the cost of being righteous...
...and made a decision...
He moved house— from Nazareth to Capernaum.... Read on >>>>
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. Mathew quotes these words from Isaiah 9. They are not a proof text, or a convenient way to explain why Jesus left Nazareth and lived in Capernaum; he means us to remember their context. If we read further in Isaiah 9 we see this:
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.... Read on >>>>
This is too long for a sermon. It will be a handout for Sunday. I will talk around the subject in a bit less detail.
The poor people of the land met a travelling preacher from Nazareth called Jesus. He captured their imaginations. He had "God" written all over him in some way, and many of them followed him to Jerusalem, convinced something new was about to happen; God was on the move.
What happened was not new. Jesus was a political troublemaker, a cause of potential unrest. And like so many others before him, he was put to death by the Romans, probably with the collusion of the Jewish authorities.
That should have been the end of it. It usually was.
Except 15 or so years later, Letters start surfacing, and then Gospels. A movement began to spread across the empire; people preaching that this Jesus had risen from the dead! The ones who should have been dispirited and dispersed found that something of Jesus remained.... Read on >>>>
This is the problem with language, metaphor, and drama. What may be helpful in once situation is unhelpful in another; even offensive. My Sudanese friends of refer to each other as "Nigga" in ways that I find offensive but which express camaraderie for them. There is no way I could use that word in speaking to, or about them. My friend, who called me a mad dog when I arrived at his shop yesterday in 42 degree heat, having just ridden a hundred kilometres, can do so because he is my friend and, as I reminded him a grin, because he does the same. I may take a different view if you call me a mad dog.... Read on >>>>
Already we have heard that Jesus is the true light and that in him the word has become flesh. John's testimony now adds to this.
‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (1:29)
‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ (1:36)... Read on >>>>