Last week Pastor Vince spoke to us about the need to be authentic. In that message he said he was going to use a text, not to make a theological exposition but as a jumping off point. I will start off the same, before moving on to some expository. Yes, I am a theologian.
As such I am going to scratch the surface of a technique known as systematic theology which formulates an orderly, and rational account of the doctrines of the Christian faith. I will take topics that Pastor Vince has addressed recently and arrange them as steppingstones, or a path we can take a step at a time to get to our destination.
A few weeks ago, Vince noted that Praise not only glorifies God, but can left us like an eagle’s wings. So here is my first foundation stone in tying to days message together. Praise and worship are in our present age opened, like the tearing of the curtain in the temple. The Holy of Holies is open to us because Christ has torn the barriers to approaching God down.
Vince in the past has told us about the structure and importance of the Tabernacle and later Temple. As you approached that place of worship and praise, note we have the approach theme again, you would go from the mundane world to a sacred space, arriving eventually to the Most Holy Place.
During the period of the Babylonian Captivity, worship, prayer, and praise began to be made in the synagogue as the Temple had been destroyed and the people dispersed. When the Second Temple was built this new synagogue, system continued to operate along side of it as we see in the Gospels.
Not only this but structure of the Second Temple was extended from the Tabernacle plan to include an outer court sometimes called The Court of the Gentiles. It was open to non-Jews, though they could approach no closer to that to the Holy Places. But they were allowed in!
The synagogue too had a similar design, but in modern synagogues the holy place is replaced with the Ark where the Scriptures rest. These are brought out onto a platform called the Bimah where they are read aloud. The congregation sits facing this platform.
Look at Luke 4:
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.
So, what does that have to do with being authentic?
As Pastor Vince noted last week, authentic faith – loves and serves.
Our praise may help us soar like eagles, but never at the cost to others.
Hebrews 13:1 tells us, “Let brotherly love continue.” First John 4: 7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.He that loves not doesn’t know God; for God is love.”
In what is often called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus makes it clear. Note some of the parallels from the passage we just looked at in Luke 4. “When I was hungry, when I was naked, in prison, etc.”
Authenticity is not about us soaring, it is about lifting others.
This authentic love was something Jesus had to teach. You may not know this but in the culture of Jesus’ times there was a belief that honour was a finite resource like gold or diamonds. If I had it, you didn’t. I kept it by keeping you down.
Vince spoke about humility, and what authentic humility is like. But this was a hard sell in Jesus’ day. This makes the Sermon on the Mount even more profound with the Meek, and Humble being praised.
Luke 16:19-31 gives us the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Their lives are contrasted, as are their deaths. Notice that even in Hell the rich man doesn’t change his attitude of superiority. “Send Lazarus to me.” “Send Lazarus to my brothers.”
Paul’s letter to Philemon is a wonderful study in authenticity. It shows Paul giving authentic and loving praise, It makes an example of authentic humility, and it shows not coercion as some have suggested, but rather Paul’s call on Philemon to realistically see things are the really are. Systematic theology at its best.
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon needs to extend himself. He needs authentic humility to get past any perceived wrongs. He needs to show love, and unconditional love that frees captives, and restores relationships. He needs to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and help fulfil the promise of the prophesy found in Luke Chapter 4.
Paul one step at a time calls for authenticity, and I have one step at a time taken three of Vince’s themes and presented them to you. Let’s be real together.
I have spent the last few days engaged as a delegate at a national union conference. There has been a lot of discussion on the support necessary for those in need. Austerity has eroded the livlihood, and life choices of many. Child poverty in the UK is an unfortunate reality despite the wealth of the nation and that the nation’s richest individuals have grown even wealthier during the Covid crisis. Fairness was a recurring theme in discussions, as CEO pay goes up, and yet more working people have slipped into poverty. Women’s and minority rights were also focused on. It is time for those in majority, or at least in influence, to step up for those who are voiceless, or at least stiffled. Abuse and harassment of women and girls should be called out by men not just “feminist” women. Racism – “institutional” and “systemic” also should be challenged by those of privilege.
These modern sounding “liberal” principles are, however, in fact biblical. Proverbs 31: 8-9 calls for us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
The scriptures are clear that we with a voice have not just an opportunity, but a duty to defend and speak for those without voice. When we see injustice we need to call it out. This isn’t just “political,” but day to day real life in its nature. “Locker room talk,” race sensitive jokes, and any other form of diminishing the human dignity of anyone should be stood up against.
At Sychar’s well, respect and a kindness done
To the Samaritan woman under midday sun
And to the Syrophoenician, Jesus gave “crumbs”
Human dignity clearly won
The poor may be with us to the end
The Apostles to them the Jerusalem Seven they did send
British NCOs WW1, Image – A family photo from Padre’s Ramblings
It is Armed Forces Day in the UK. It is marked annually at the end of June to commemorate the service of men and women of the British Armed Forces. It is similar to the American Veterans’ Day, though it is more recent, having been created in 2006 (as compared to the US’ celebration which dates to the 1950s). Although an official event, it is not a public holiday in the UK.
It was the early 1980s and I was at the US Marine Corps Infantry Training School at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. It had rained for days, and the trails and pathways throughout the wooded training area had become quagmires. This did not of course stop the training.
It was into this environment that we men of “Charlie Company” began a timed hike. At first I did well, even though the mud in places seemed to make every step feel as if my feet weighed a hundred pounds. I was quite proud of myself at my professionalism. In fact, almost Hollywood-like, when I slipped my rifle was instinctively lifted skywards away from the unforgiving mud.
But alas, I started to fall back in the column, and eventually was trailing some ten to fifteen yards behind the others. As we approached a place where the trail crossed a road, a truck was waiting, and I and other “hike drops” was snagged by a sergeant who ordered us onto the uncovered back of the vehicle. Cold and wet to the skin we were taken at speed back to camp, as the chill began to take its toll. I never again was a hike drop.
Mud and toil – is a way of life
It prepares you for a world of strife
By testing yourself – to the limit each day
You strengthen yourself – for the role you play
The defense of others – is no simple chore
But to give of yourself – who can do more?
Lips blue, fingers numb Windswept the transportation Never lag again!
Pastor Joe brought us a passionate message this week on mission. He called us not only to identify our mission in life, but to undertake it as well. He noted that this was a area of life which had very much been on his heart of late, and enacting his personal mission was now a priority.
He noted that the idea of mission is not new to Christianity. He said the fact that there is a Christianity at all is because Jesus himself had a mission. Matthew 18:11 tells us, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” This very point is repeated again in Luke 19:10, as well.
Jesus’ mission was the reason He came to Earth. We were a lost and dying world, and God so loved us, that He sent His one and only Son to save us (John 3:16).
But it was a mission that would require sacrifice. Jesus would not take any short cuts in fulfilling His duty. In Matthew 4: 1-11, we find Jesus being tempted in the desert. He is offered two direct shortcuts to His mission. The first was for Him to cast Himself from the Temple-top. This would truly get people’s attention. But He refused quoting scripture. He then is offered the end result of His quest – the souls of all the world. But at all too high of a price – the worship of Satan. This too is rebuffed. The end result is Jesus would have to die to complete his task.
Ephesians 1: 5-7 tells us,
“In lovehe predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Jesus not only came to seek and save us, but in His blood adopted us! It was and is an ultimate act of love.
It is that love in the form of selfless compassion that was at the heart of Jesus’ mission.
Matthew 9: 35 – 38 reads,
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
But the passage continues in by showing us, as that as Jesus’ adopted siblings we too should show the same compassion and sense of mission.
“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
This is summed up in what is often called the Great Commission. Matthew 28: 18-20 says,
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We are to do this out of love for God, but also because of our compassion for our fellow humans. If we open our eyes we will see the needs (see Colossans 3:12).
Seeing the need is not always the “religious” thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. Look at Luke 10: 33 and following. A man is robbed and left for dead. Yet the “religious” figures of a priest and a Levite ignore the man’s need and distress.
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity [compassion] on him. . . . “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
And so should we. “Your mission if you choose to accept it . . . ” is plain to see.