How would you like to be remembered? Well, an American company based in Utah have come up with an ingenious suggestion- get mummified. The owner of the company says that his clients don’t want to be ‘covered with dirt and forgotten’. They want to be remembered after death: to live on in some way.
When you think about it, what that company has tapped into is a deep seated instinct that there must be something more to life than death. That if death really is the end, then all our achievements in life are ultimately rendered meaningless.
But what if it could be shown that life can come out of death? What if it is the grave that is made a mockery of by someone leaving it like a prisoner breaking out of the confines of his cell? Then maybe life isn’t so meaningless after all, especially if the person who does is to be an example for the rest of us
Reading the right books and coming to the correct conclusions will only take you so far.
To believe is to understand why Jesus had to die. Then, as now, people concerned about their reputations and status and struggled to make sense of the work and nature of Christ. It all becomes clearer as our heart are moved and our minds engage with the reality of God’s plan.
Estimates vary. No one counted and there wasn’t an entrance fee to make the calculation easier. It’s likely that there well over half a million people crowded into the narrow winding streets of the old city. There were all there for a spectacular show but they got more than they ever bargained for.
Passover remains the highlight of the Jewish Festival Calendar. It’s an opportunity for people to celebrate God’s deliverance with communal feasting and worship which engages all the senses. This year, it would be different.
Just as Jesus rode into that city, so he comes into our lives. It’s often unexpected, occasionally unwelcome (we have to rethink our goals) but always for our benefit. The fast of Lent and repentance is almost over, the feast of Easter is nearly here
Jesus is moving centre stage and to His "enthronement" on a Cross crowned with Thorns. His seventh sign, the raising of the dead man Lazurus, his name means "God helps"! completes the proclamation of Light coming into the world.
The rest of John's Gospel shares how the Light Is full of grace and truth - God's glory. Raising Lazurus, in this Bethany "House of bitterness", is the sign that He, the Divine Word, brings life, to that which is well and truly stinking dead. The hardest test of all - the redemption of a sinful creation - stinking in its dead state" but tetalesthai! It will be accomplished..
What’s it like on your front line today?
Paul leaves us in no doubt that our resolve, as well as our faith, will be tested. Whether we can readily identify the issues we face or if they crop up without warning, there’s no doubt that being committed to Christ will provoke a reaction.
Whether it’s a conflict over the way we behave or a direct assault on our faith we aren’t left to our own devices. We have the means to confront the worst of enemies with the promise of God’s presence and power.
Waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want: waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.
Jesus tells His disciples to sit and wait for the power God has promised. They are not simply hanging around with no0thing to do at this point but are being prepared for the next step. Without the preparation and the power, their mission to spread the Good News would have been totally ineffective.
The whole of our life should be directed by what is taught by Christ, what is pleasing to him and what is right and proper for his people.
Our witness and ministry to this community is not to be determined by a chart or a set of rules but from living with Christ, and following the way he guides us. We can only be light when we live out the truth of our own relationship with Christ.
What about it? Surely I can’t be forgiven for that? (Whatever that might be).
The good news is that, yes you can. Be forgiven; have the slate wiped clean; find your relationship with God restored. If we doubt that, then we are calling God’s ability into question.
It all begins with honesty: seeing where (not if) we have done wrong – sinned as the bible puts it – and thereby broken our relationship with God and others. It also involves confession (recognising our sin) and the big step of seeking to deal with any consequences that follow from what we’ve done.
Christians are called to be distinctive. We are not only a community but also a family and a working team - we are called for a purpose outside of ourselves. Our distinctiveness is seen and experienced in our attitudes and the way that we conduct ourselves. Our calling is to make real the character and effectiveness of the Love and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, made real through us in the world. Jesus, by His spirit, present and active!
I realise now that there’s something I should add to the sermon title. It might not be plain to everyone but it’s clear to me that I’ve missed a word out.
When …. (just add it after “God” and before the question mark).
Thinking about the power of Grace in drawing us to God is one thing. It’s a bigger picture, though, when we consider (as the Psalm writer and Paul both do), the pressures on us to conform to other thinking, finding our reference points from culture rather than them being given by God.
True discipleship reflects the character of God being lived through the believer. As verse 6 tells us, when we are committed to holiness (right living) we’ll find real satisfaction, not just temporary relief.
Paul begins his letter by giving his readers a theological perspective or framework for their faith. Faith is not just a matter of belief, it has to be expressed (lived out). It’s inclusive, built on Christ (2:20 – 21) and open to all (Jews and Gentiles) who believe & recognise Christ as Saviour and Lord
Moving onto practical considerations, today’s message considers the essential character of the church if it is to be considered an authentic example of a Christian community. We begin with the church’s call to unity – how we get it and how we maintain it.
The whole matter of evangelism and ministry to the World in Christ’s name is located in pursuing and perfecting Christ’s love through our lives and life together. We are nothing without that Goal.
Church is not a building nor a particular denomination. Church is people, church is you and I, whenever, wherever and however we meet.
The bible tells us that the church is like a body: there’s infinite variety in its make up but unity in the way it all fits together. We are part of something special (God’s church); we’re connected for a common purpose (serving the world); we’re growing up (directed and refreshed by the Holy Spirit).
Hanging on to faith, persevering in the face of trials, temptation, struggles and suffering is not easy. But, as James illustrates, if our attitude to the way we use our material resources is not right, then our perseverance is in vain.
These verses are a corrective towards selfishness, a selfishness that apparently manifested itself in an extreme form in James's experience; so keen were some to get wealth and keep it, in that they were prepared to do anything to achieve their goal (v.4).
It all boils down to a question of attitude - a matter of what we are inside, that affects the way we deal with and how we respond to the needs of others.