Currently in our Church year we are exploring the events after the resurrection of Jesus and seeing how the truth of who he is and who he calls us to be is gaining momentum. First tentatively the disciples grasp hold of faith – tentatively they begin to live by that faith and share it with others.
From here it’s an exciting story as led by God the Spirit, in deepening faith, they move out and speak out to anyone – Jew or gentile – who will listen.
What motivates them?
Simply love for a man they now know to be God.
What empowers them?
That same love coupled with the power of the Spirit transforms them and draws men and women to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Soon (May 23rd) we will remember the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost; on that day 3000 were baptised as they joined the disciples in faith (read Acts 2:1-47).
On that day the Church was born and quickly spread throughout the Roman world – the Spirit continues to transform and shape lives to this day. The Church continues to be born in our midst. While it is true that statistics can paint a grim picture for the Church I choose to believe something else – God will build his Church and the gates of hell will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).
We’re seeing that here in Kaikorai. The church faces immense challenges but the Spirit is moving in people’s lives and drawing us to a relationship with Jesus which is deep, real, and obvious.
I see a deepening faith in many people – often in those who’ve gone through the hardest times and I see women and men returning to and coming to a living, life-shaping faith in Jesus the Christ. Have you seen this? Maybe you’re experiencing it!
2000 years ago the Church did not grow through programmes but when individuals and households met Jesus – and they met Jesus when others spoke about what they had experienced. Peter was no preacher, he had not spent hours in the library learning from books – but he did know Jesus, and that is what he spoke about.
The 3000 baptised at Pentecost knew even less but still they knew enough: they knew Jesus. And the story goes that these early believers gossiped the gospel throughout the empire when they returned to their homes. Similarly in New Zealand news of Jesus Christ often preceded the missionaries as those who first heard and believed told others.
The Church grows today in like fashion when we motivated by love and empowered by the Spirit live out and speak out the good news of Jesus.
I love walking the beach. For me it’s a place to think and a place to draw close to God. Time has a way of standing still on the beach as my thoughts meander this way and that – much as do my footprints upon the sand. Recently I had the pleasure of doing just this at Ohope beach: just me, a few birds and the sunrise.
Sunrise at Ohope
This morning I was reflecting on the scene at another beach. In John 21:1-19 Jesus had gone for a walk along the beach and come across the disciples who’d been fishing through the night. It is early morning – the sun chasing the night away when Jesus calls out to his friends.
Strangely they fail to recognise him – then is that so strange – I too don’t always recognise the presence of God. Yet when he calls out to them and suggests they try casting their net out the other side of the boat they wisely agree and are blessed by a catch surpassing their wildest expectations.
Jesus I find often surpasses my expectations! Continue reading
On Easter Sunday, we considered once again the Good News that Jesus’ tomb was found empty. Luke 24: 1 – 12 We considered the business of weighing evidence, judging whether these women were telling the truth, or even making sense at all. Are they overcome with hype and emotion? Initially the men don’t believe, the women’s story seemed like nonsense to them, and they disregard it.
Isn’t it interesting how often in the Bible, God’s message comes through those who are not of high status or influence, in this case, the women.
The Easter weekend ODT devoted the front page and a half of the magazine section to Christianity, and God’s unconditional gift of salvation. John Barclay, a visiting professor at Otago University was interviewed. He talks about Christianity ‘changing the normal ways of thinking about hierarchy’, and that ‘God’s gift is given…without regard to gender, and without regard to social status.’
But of the men, impetuous Peter had enough sense to run to the tomb, it seems so typical of him, charging around. And after seeing with his own eyes, he goes away wondering to himself, considering what has happened, weighing things up. We do have a record of what he decided about the evidence for Jesus rising from the dead : ‘we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty’. (1Peter 1:16)
So what about the matter of Jesus rising from the dead? Have you decided about that? A couple of weeks back, we talked about Mary anointing Jesus for burial, and the fragrance of the pure nard perfume filling the room, its influence inescapable. The fragrance, the influence of the gospel about the death and resurrection of Jesus also ‘fills the room’, figuratively speaking. Continue reading
Pictured is a painting, by Caravaggio. It is picture that makes me feel somewhat sick.
"The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" (1601-02) by Italian artist Caravaggio (1573-1610).
Here we have a composed Jesus watching as a man sticks a finger into the raw wound on his side. In the background you can just make out some of the disciples gathered around – watching – wondering what will happen. The man is Thomas, known to history as Doubting Thomas. Thomas the doubter who called the Resurrection of Jesus into question. Thomas who wanted to see for himself, rather than believe the word of the others. Thomas who has become a byword for disbelief. But has Thomas had a bad press? Should we re-examine the evidence on Thomas called the Twin. Let us consider the facts. Continue reading
Forsaken - one in a series depicting the Last Words of Christ by artist Huub Bogaers, www.crosswords.dse.nl
And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
These words from Matthew’s gospel always stop me in my tracks – no matter how familiar the story it’s as I hear or proclaim these words that the impact of Jesus’ suffering hits me.
Without doubt the physical toll Jesus endured was horrendous – enough to break any person: the crown of thorns, the whip tearing into his flesh, the fatigue, the nails, the thirst, the tearing of muscles, the agony of drawing breath.
Yet on top of this the mental, emotional and spiritual pain may have been even harder to bear – his suffering was complete – affecting his whole being.
Consider: he was betrayed by one of his own followers. A man he had befriended, a man he had given responsibility and trust to. Continue reading