Sunday 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday
Easter is fast approaching. Everyone knows what Easter is all about, well most do… ok some do… those who go to church perhaps. Less people know about Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It tells the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey for the Jewish Passover festival the week before he was crucified. The crowds who followed Jesus into the city were fed up with being oppressed by the Romans, they desperately wanted something to happen. They even looked for God to help them. Then along comes Jesus, their Messiah. Only he wasn’t what they were expecting, he didn’t do what they expected him to do, and they didn’t get the answer they wanted.
Given our current circumstances coping with a worldwide pandemic, I suspect that we too would like Jesus to ride into our world and sort things out. But usually it’s the more ordinary things in life that trouble us, like paying our bills, healing for our sick families and friends, or help with our physical or emotional pain. We want God to help us, and we usually want it all sorted by tomorrow!
The irony is that God does answer those prayers, just as He answered the prayers of the crowd when he provided them with a messiah. The people wanted a Messiah and a Messiah came, but they didn’t recognise Him. The people wanted to be rescued from evil powers that oppressed them, and Jesus did just that. But He didn’t do it in the way they expected.
This story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey wonderfully illustrates the mismatch between our human expectations and prayers… and God’s answers. The crowd were actually disappointed in Jesus, He wasn’t what they wanted, a fact proved so publicly on Good Friday when they all called for him to be crucified. But as the reality of Christ’s mission unfolded over the next few days, weeks, months and years, they would realise that their prayers had been answered, and that their praise on that first Palm Sunday was indeed justified, but not for the reasons they expected.
Sunday 29th March 2020
We really are living through some very strange times aren’t we. Maybe you’re feeling a bit cornered, up against the wall, caught between a rock and a hard place. Maybe your anxiety levels are rising and you’re feeling it’s all a bit too much. If that’s you, then do not despair, know that you are under God’s guidance and protection through this time. God has much to teach us; About community, about connecting to each other, and about what it means for us to surrender our lives into His care, as He leads us through our enforced isolation from one another.
Remember during the Exodus, when the Israelites found themselves boxed in and facing being run down by the Egyptian army? Well their journey to the Red Sea was just as much a part of God’s plan as crossing it. We must do what Moses commanded the Israelites: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today” (Ex. 14:13). And we must remember that God is bigger than the most desperate of situations. He can make a way where there seems to be no way. God is able, in fact more than able, to redeem us from any situation. Our job is to trust God – to keep our eyes on the Lord. So ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand still. Keep quiet. Watch the Lord work!’ To God be the glory!
Sunday 22nd March 2020
This week we received the news that due to the CoVid-19 virus Bishop Jay and the Standing committee of the diocese of CCA have had to make the decision to cease all public worship from Monday 23rd March, and to cease Holy Communion with immediate effect. This it something that all the denominations in NZ have agreed to do.
This decision obviously makes today the last time we can gather together until we are informed otherwise by the Diocese. But that doesn’t mean we stop meeting altogether. Parish council will work to ensure that some form of small gatherings can take place on Sundays, and an audio recording of the sermon will continue to be available on our website www.allsaintschch.org for those who want it. Homegroups will also continue as normal until we are instructed otherwise by the diocese. That’s a lot to take in isn’t it? I realise also that not everyone will agree with this decision, but that is out of our control. Some may also be anxious about the medical impact of the virus, or concerned about the financial impact of all this, that is very understandable… So in this time of anxiety and uncertainty, let’s not forget one another, especially those who live alone. Keep in contact, pray with and for each other, in person or over the phone. And let’s not forget to whom we belong, God will be with us through this difficult time.
Sunday 15th March 2020
God has told us that He is a jealous God, and as such, will not tolerate us putting other gods before Him. We are called to serve the LORD, first and foremost, and to not allow anyone or anything to become a rival in our lives. Looking back at the history of God’s people and it’s easy to see that God didn’t tolerate the idolatry of Egypt or any of the other nations surrounding Israel indefinitely, nor did He tolerate the idolatry of Israel, and He definitely won’t tolerate it in us either. So, ask yourself this question: ‘Do I have an idol in my life right now? Is there anything that I place on a pedestal that I give higher priority to than Jesus Christ? Is there anything more important to me than my service to him?’
The thing is, if we are not careful, we can be serving the god of recreation and entertainment, or the god of family, putting the wishes of parents, mates, or children ahead of God. If we are not careful, we can be serving the god of finances and worldly possessions, or the god of pleasure… If we’re not careful.
We live in a very tempting and seductive world, one where there are many gods we can be serving, but only one God we should be serving. So know this… God does not take pleasure in correcting his children any more than you or I do when we have to discipline our own children. But God loves us too much to allow us to remain in sin and He will bring judgment whenever necessary to bring us back into obedience to His will… while there is still time to repent.
Sunday 8th March 2020
Have you ever had one of those days that went from bad to worse? I’m sure we all have at some time or other. They’re the sort of day when nothing seems to go right. You wake up late for work one morning, rush to the bathroom, have a shave and cut yourself. You put on your shoes and the shoelace snaps. You miss breakfast, rush out to the car and it won’t start, so you make a dash for the bus just in time to see it go sailing past you stop.
You know the kind of day I’m talking about don’t you. We all have days like that, maybe not all those things at once, but days when nothing goes our way. It’s how we deal with them that shows whether we’ve learnt from our past experiences.
But we’re not alone in having bad days. In one sense, Jesus last day was a bad day, the apostle Paul had them, Jonah, certainly had them, and so did Moses. So, when our days go from bad to worse, as they sometimes do, we must turn to God and trust Him. Our dependence on God in the midst of our ‘bad day’ will lead to patience, which will lead to wisdom and maturity. We all want to grow up, but we want to do so without experiencing any growing pains, but that is not possible. So, fasten your seat belts, the ride is often turbulent, but the destination is worth it.
Sunday 1st March 2020
When someone asks you to do something, what’s your first reaction? Is it, ‘Oh yes, I’d love to help’, or does your mind immediately default to the many excuses why you can’t help? Some of them may even be valid, but sometimes doing the right thing is being prepared to be inconvenienced.
Let’s be honest, we’re all quite good at making excuses, we have excuses for just about everything; why we missed school or work, why we’re late, why we didn’t pay our bills on time, why we went off our diet or new exercise plan, and for why we haven’t been in touch with friends. We also have excuses regarding spiritual matters too. We have excuses for why we’ve been missing church, we don’t give more of our time or money to the work of the gospel, or why don’t pray or read our bibles at home. Most of our excuses though aren’t very good ones.
The thing is, God doesn’t want to hear excuses, He’d rather hear our confessions and resolutions. God wants to see genuine repentance and faithfulness in our lives, a willingness to serve Him and His purposes. He’s not without compassion though, he doesn’t write us off at our first failure, in fact he gives us time to come around to his point of view. The reality is that all of us are called by God; into a saving relationship with him, to become godly servants. What he calls us to do will be different for each one of us, based upon our different experiences. But we are all called to serve in one way or another. So let’s allow God to help us overcome our reluctance and our excuses so that we can become God’s faithful followers and servants in the church.