Here you will find some of our recent sermons. Some of these are full scripts while others are in note form only, hopefully there’s enough for you to get the key points. If you have questions, feel free to ask the relevant minister.
Luke 19:1-10 Jesus and Zacchaeus (NRSV)
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
* * * * * * *
So you wanna cut through Jericho and trade your stuff do you? On behalf of the Roman Empire, you are obliged to pay Caeser a portion of your earnings and future earnings. That’s 20% thanks. Don’t anger me or the Roman guards over there…” It was the same all over all the way out to the fringes of the Roman Empire. And so it was with the daily word of a Roman Tax Man.
The name, Zacchaeus translates as “”pure, innocent”. That’s rather interesting given his profession before he met Jesus. He was a chief tax-collector at Jericho in the Bible. Because the lucrative production and export of balsam was centred in Jericho, his position would have carried both importance and wealth. Balsam is an aromatic resinous substance that flows from a plant, either spontaneously or from an incision. Balsams are soft, initially malleable, and therefore can be used an ointment in wound healing. If the resin is left to harden, it is fragrant, and can be used in perfumes, cosmetics and used as incense.
So why did Zakko, Zakki, Big Zed (I wonder what his mates called him, if he had any) have such a change of heart? I think this is a lesson in itself, that follows the old and truthful saying, money does not buy happiness.
Having more money might bring pleasure, but it does not bring intrinsic happiness that’s sticky to the soul. Personal growth, meaningful relationships, and states of our physical and mental health contribute to the intrinsic happiness that grounds us regardless of the unknowns that swirl around us. This is because once our basic needs are met, our happiness becomes less dependent on material possessions and more on social connections, purpose, and meaning in life.
Spike Milligan, an old comedian said Spike Milligan, a British comedian who died in 2002, said “Money can’t buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.” We might have heard a paraphrase of this: “Money can’t buy happiness, but it certainly helps.”
Zakki’s god was money. He had no generosity towards others. Jesus was filled with loving compassion for this man because his life was so empty. He had climbed to the top of the ladder of success, only to find his ladder leaned against the wrong building. We too may think that having lots of wealth may give us everything we need in life, but then the proverb comes to haunt us “money can’t buy happiness.”
Material possessions are dangerous as they reinforce a selfish self-sufficiency and then cause us to think that we don’t need God. “I am doing just fine thanks”. We may find it unpalatable to hear that anyone who trusts in riches, becomes greedier, and is using them as an idolatrous replacement for God. When we are doing well, God is not thanked and is pushed to the background. But when times get tough, we have the nerve to call upon him for help, having previously ignored him.
We often do not consider ourselves to be rich. But we may often forget that we have so many comforts and luxuries in comparison to so many others around the world. We may not consider what it would be like if we were born in a different country. When on holiday, perhaps in a developing country, have you ever considered what kind of life the local people have? I recall in my travels throughout Asia and the middle east seeing so many people living in slums, eking out a living. The luxury hotels and tourist spots were often less than a mile away.
We might console ourselves by thinking, “Alright I’ll have a great time, give only a little to charity, and consider giving a little more in my will when I die.” So, we know when we will die, do we? Jesus spoke about this kind of thinking and the greed of always wanting more, despite already being wealthy, in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. A very rich man wanted more and more and thought he could store his wealth for many years and relax and enjoy it. However, he was to die that night.
Jesus already knew what Zacchaeus wanted. His instruction was to “get out of that tree and follow me, and this is the pathway to true happiness. There does not seem to be much significance in it being a sycamore tree, except that those types of trees are hardy and big. But here’s what some historians have posited “The sycamore tree symbolizes the power of seeking spiritual
enlightenment and the potential for personal transformation. An The sycamore tree’s roots run deep in the history of Israel. It stood witness to the events that shaped the land throughout the ages.” How interesting!
Trying to do what Jesus taught leads to greater happiness and contentment. This does not mean that every disciple of Christ must sell all that they have and live in poverty; rather it means that we must always be focussed on God in how we behave. Everything that is given away is a form of stewardship – it is love in action. If we have no money to give away, then we must give something else, such as our time. This does not mean that we should feel guilty or ashamed of our wealth, but we should always be mindful that it may not last. Our lifestyles may be very quickly taken away from us. We all have to be mindful that managing our careers and busy lives does not become more important than serving others. We should always make time for our families and spiritual life. What good is being prosperous if one does not have the time to enjoy it and share it with others?
We should be mindful that our wealth and privilege does not make us arrogant and insensitive to the people around us. We may look upon other less fortunate than ourselves and subconsciously consider that they need to work harder or that it is their mistakes that have kept them where they are. We cannot scoff at people who volunteer to do so much for other people without taking any payment.
Wealth is often a result of very hard work, and prosperity and success should be enjoyed. But if we profess to be true Christians, then we have a duty to share our prosperity with others. We must always give thanks for what we have. Somebody will always have more than us. We all fall short and fail in the first commandment each time we lack generosity in showing genuine love for each other. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” We will all have treasure in heaven. We are the ones who suffer when we let wealth or work cut us off from other people and remove us from a relationship with God. We must recognise that everything we have comes from him. Zacchaeus teaches us that when you make a solid effort to experience Jesus, you are rewarded.
The solution is not to try harder to be good, but to accept God’s love; If we do this, we learn that we can trust God for the things we really need in life, and then everything will fall into place.
Rev Barry Hanson
PET BLESSING SERVICE 2023
A burglar creeping through a house at night was disturbed by an eerie voice, not quite human, saying “JESUS IS WATCHING YOU!” Shining his torch around he eventually found the voice belonged to a parrot, so he relaxed. “And who might you be?” he asked the parrot. “King David”, replied the parrot. “What kind of person gives their parrot a name like King David?” he sneered. The parrot replied “The same kind of person who calls their rottweiler Jesus!”
Pets as family members, companions and maybe protectors (as in the story). Think of all that this means – mutual dependency and support. Love your neighbour as yourself – including animal neighbours.
Pets as therapists, gurus, role models. The ‘Mindfulness’ of pets – Wendell Berry’s poem ‘The peace of wild things’ …
Our pets are not wild but are closely related to their wild cousins and remind us of them and of our responsibilities towards the whole animal kingdom (Genesis 1 our call is to be Stewards … not Consumers!)
Pets as God’s creatures can be a window into the world for us; a mirror in which we see ourselves more clearly: a door through which we can improve and grow and make the world better. We train them and they can train us too.
Pets give us a foretaste of heaven – Isaiah Harmonious relationships with animals at centre of Isaiah 11 vision. Jesus born in a stable amongst domestic animals, lived lightly on the planet, enabling flourishing.
Many of our pets are ‘Rescue animals’ – sad that that’s necessary but a reminder that we are all rescue animals too. We take special care of a pet who may have been mistreated in the past. Jesus is also especially protective of people who have suffered or been exploited and harmed.
We rescue pets and they can rescue us – from loneliness, anxiety, selfishness – they may even help us make new human friends. Maybe they are part of God’s rescue plan for us all – as our Rescuer Jesus completes his mission, saving us from futility and fear so we can flourish in this world and the next.
Rev Drew Tweedy
Luke 9:1-6 The Mission of the Twelve
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
* * * * * * *
Let’s prepare for the mission! Only take what you need folks! I am sure the first question would be “what mission?”, quickly followed by “where are we going?” and “for how long?” Then after a little more thought, the questions would come thick and fast:
How much money do we need?
Where are we staying?
Will it be cold?
What’s the food like?
Can I take my own pillow?
Who else is going?
The questions soon transform into statements:
I’ll ask if Doris wants to come too.
It will rain you know … it always rains.
The train is too busy in the morning, and outrageously expensive.
I hope we won’t have to do too much walking.
Bill, you can have a lift with Tony; he knows the way.
What do we know about these people?
Who is going to do the risk assessments? Steve might have an old one we can change.
Now if I said it was a day trip to London to visit the Science Museum that would influence what you would bring. If I said it was Hyde Park, you might bring some different things. How many of us would set out for London without taking anything? What if I said we were going to Broad Street in Oxford? Many of you might take extra money as there is a large Waterstones bookshop there.
What if you didn’t know where you were going? Just turn up here at 800 am tomorrow, and a minibus will meet you there; the destination is only a 2 hour drive away. You are only allowed a very small shoulder bag. Who’s in?
We like to be very prepared for any journey, no matter how long or short. I am sure none of us would deliberately go down to the shops to buy a loaf of bread and leave our money behind or set out in rainy weather without an umbrella.
Jesus sent out His 12 disciples to different places for a short time, so that they could preach about the new message of salvation. This may have been a kind of introductory apprenticeship, where they would have had to try out their new craft of preaching and persuading for the first time. It would have been a steep learning curve for all of them, as up until then, Jesus was doing all the talking and they were the active listeners. They now had to put into practice what they had learnt. Soon their missional journeys after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension would be much longer and more arduous. We don’t know where they were sent, nor for how long. We can assume it must have been for a few weeks around the Galilee area, as this episode is followed by the feeding of the 5000 on the northern shores of the sea of Galilee.
Even though the mission was short, they were clearly instructed to take nothing with them. They would have to do their preaching on street corners, in synagogues, and marketplaces. There was also a rule among the rabbis of the day that a person could not enter the temple area with a staff, shoes, or a moneybag, otherwise it would give the appearance of being engaged in other business than the service of the Lord. Perhaps they could have left their things outside, with someone keeping watch over them, but this would have been against Jesus’ instructions. Whatever the location, the message was urgent, and simple. The Messiah is present. His kingdom is different to what people expect, and he gathers a community of those who repent and believe. Carrying things would get in the way of the preaching of the simple message. They still needed places to sleep, and to eat. Jesus indicated that that they will be provided for, in that in some places they would be shown hospitality, by those who accepted the message, but at others they would be rejected, receiving no welcome. If that happened, they were told “just shake the dust off your feet and move on”. (This was also a sign that the disciples were to take nothing from the place that they left;) even the dust would be left behind.
The disciples were also given power and authority to heal, for both physical and psychological diseases. They could couple their words with actions, that gave real proof to what they were saying. “We say this about God, and we now demonstrate this through God’s power.”
We are called to proclaim the Good News. Sometimes we need equipment. But we can go without, and just use our mouths and actions. We can’t take any physical “stuff” to meet God in our prayers. We only have emotional baggage to bring. We are not restricted in what emotions we can take. The baggage can include good things and things that trouble us. The baggage can be happiness, confusion, indecision, anxiety, or sorrow. We have all been given powers too. Our first power is having the ability and confidence to bring these things to God.
God has called each one of us to be in a relationship with him. We are equipped for this journey, even if we don’t think so. We just have to ask.
What emotional baggage will you bring to God in prayer?
Post script: If you could be given one other power, what would it be? Why?
Rev Barry Hanson
Philippians 1: 21 – end
Paul has had a rough time and been imprisoned for a long time, but it didn’t stop him writing to the new Christians in Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth, and now Philippi.
He has heard how faithful and generous the Philippians have been and wants to encourage them. He mentions that it is with great joy and contentment to suffer in Christ’s service. Paul knew and so did the Philippians, that true joy only comes through living humbly and serving one another in Christ’s name.
That is what is available to us today if we allow God’s gifts of love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self-control to reign in our lives.
It’s not always easy, is it. When things go wrong, or our lives are tainted with pain or sadness or we see and hear all that is happening around the world, it’s hard to understand and feel joyful. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we become hardened to what is going on, but Paul says, ’Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ. Any comfort from his Love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, and working together with one mind and purpose’.
He carries on by saying be humble, don’t think yourselves better than everyone else. Be like Christ Jesus who humbled himself and came to earth as a baby, grew up to allow himself to be crucified to take away our sins and give us the chance of eternal life just because we say sorry for what we have done wrong and say ‘YES’ to following Christ. It’s that simple. So why do so many not take up God’s offer. I know it can sometimes seem like we have made the wrong choice, especially when some unbelievers seem to have easier lives. But we know what is waiting for us when our earthly lives come to an end.
As Paul says, ‘Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear, (as in honouring him) For God is working in you, giving you your heart’s desire and the power to do what pleases him’
In our second reading from Matt 21:23-32 we heard that Jesus is again being challenged by the leading priests and elders. They are wanting to trap him into saying something that they could arrest him for. He had been teaching in the synagogues, healing the sick, casting out demons clearing the temple with such authority, even on the Sabbath day! Who did he think he was. Who gave him the authority. They certainly hadn’t. They wanted to know by whose authority he was doing all these things.
Jesus knew what they were up to so he turned the tables on them but asking them a question. They had witnessed baptisms
and John saying ‘repent of your sins and return to God, for the Kingdom of heaven is near’. John could that see they were watching what he was doing and saying, but they were so full of their own importance that they couldn’t see that they too were in need of redemption.
Jesus knew this, so he posed the question, ‘Was the baptism John the Baptist did on all those people given by authority from God or man’. Ahh-a stumbling block to them. They couldn’t answer for fear of making the wrong decision. What gave Jesus the right to be in the temple and tell them how they should be living their lives.
I can imagine that Jesus was having a little game with them. So he gave them a story about a father and two sons. The older one was asked to do a task, said no, but then chose to do it. The other son also asked by the father to do the same task, and he said ‘yes’, but didn’t go. Jesus asked them who was doing his fathers will. They said the first son. Then Jesus, tongue in check I think, told them that those whom they, the priests and elders looked down on as sinful and corrupt, turned to God when John baptised them, but they refused God’s offer and walked away.
Have you ever had a feeling God was calling you, but you didn’t think you would be able to do it so ignored the call, but later took up the offer and found you were capable, and the benefits and joy of achieving it made you feel great. Or did you feel that God was calling you and you thought, ‘maybe I’ll give it a go’, but in the end forget or decide it’s not for you. What may you have missed out on.
The elders were great ones for expecting those they preached to should follow the laws, but they themselves were above reproach. How wrong they were.
All of us who have repented and accepted Jesus Christ as our Saviour and follow him, have all been given the Holy Spirit, so whatever we do in God’s name cannot fail. We have the been given the authority.
When we follow God’s calling, whether it’s being kind and helpful, taking up a position in the church to take some sort of responsibility, be it help in the kitchen, flower arranging, on the PCC etc, you’ll find job satisfaction and a joy because it is for the Lord you do it.
I never gave it a thought when I first believed in Jesus at the age of 40. Gradually over the years I felt confident to offer to go on the PCC, making the tea and coffee, never flower arranging, I’m hopeless at that. Then I began to enjoy telling people about Jesus and how my life had changed for the better. I thought it would be good to be more vocal and put my name forward to do the Lay Ministry course, not really knowing what was involved. 3 years of study and a degree at the end of it and permission to preach and teach. ME! I left school at 15 with no qualifications, so to go join a group, 7 in my group, all who have university
degrees to boot, I took the plunge. Because it was what God wanted me to do, I scraped through and in 2013 I was licenced. Oh, 10 years ago. Wow.
We are all called and authorised to be His body for God’s kingdom. Whether we have always believed or are new Christians, it’s not us who do what Jesus calls us to do, but the power of the Holy Spirit working through us.
Let us believe and remember to ‘Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper’ (Ps 37v3).
If you can believe, all things are possible if you believe (Mark 9:23).
It is more blessed to give then to receive (Acts 20:35).
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10).
Carol Howard, LLM
Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus walks on the water
Introduction – a fun day out on the water
· Our punting/rowing trip on the Thames. We had intended to go ice-skating (…)
· Lots of fun/enjoyable things happened
· Our midstream boat swap – potentially soggy and embarrassing consequences were fortunately avoided!
· The weather was mostly pleasant and the company was great
· At no point did I consider walking on the water – I don’t think St Peter had either (or Jesus?)
Context of our gospel passage
· John Baptist beheaded and disciples told Jesus this news
· Jesus needed space to grieve and pray
· He had to teach and feed the 5,000 instead
· Then he got the chance to send his disciples ahead and get his grieving/praying time
How useful and relevant are the Bible’s miracle stories today?
· Pre-scientific people, superstitious about darkness & the sea. Gullible?
· Now we know this could not happen as described. Or do we? (Barry has a theory!)
· Speculations are a wild goose chase. Better to have a conversation with the text – and perhaps with its author and its inspiration …
Questions I have for the text
· Why did Jesus walk on the water? Was it really necessary? Was he showing off his super-powers?
· Answer – I don’t think he even thought about it. After a night in prayer and communion with his Father, perfect in faith, overflowing with compassion, saw the disciples struggling against the wind and just went to them.
· Is Jesus a ghost we should be afraid of? Was he playing a cruel trick on Peter?
· What did Peter learn by stepping out of the boat and what relevance does that have for me, trying to be Christian today?
· Answer – In the Bible (and for most people throughout history) the sea has been associated with danger, darkness, evil and chaos. (Not as a venue for leisure and safe travel). In this Bible story, Jesus walks straight over the top of all that. He masters evil, darkness, chaos and danger – and he is not distracted by what it may do to him, not controlled by its ‘drag down and destroy’ qualities. Jesus will not be distracted from his work of compassion, redemption and blessing.
· Remarkably, Peter discovers that he too could transcend his limitations, walking over the top of all that the rough sea represents, evil, chaos etc – so long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, his faith in Jesus. He would begin sinking if he lost this focus and this faith.
· You may have your own questions for the text, for the gospel writer, for Jesus or God the Father … ask your questions, don’t be afraid to ask.
Questions the text (or God) has for me
· Will I give sufficient time to solitary prayer, to meditation and communion with God? Do I use serving and doing things ‘for God’ as a distraction from the time I should be spending listening to and being with God?
· In rough waters will I get out of the boat and go towards Jesus?
· Do I want to transcend my limitations with God’s help?
· Am I limiting my vision of what God can do for and through me?
· Am I easily distracted from Jesus when I ‘see’ the wind – or rather, the damage and danger caused by the wind?
· Am I a doubter or lacking in faith? What can be done about this?
How to ‘be a blessing’
· I still have no plans to walk on water and doubt that I will do so any time soon. But I do hear God’s call to a richer, more disciplined prayer life. I also feel the urge to get out of my boat or comfort zone and, with my eyes fixed on Jesus, to transcend the limitations that I or other people have put on me, without any thought for my reputation or comfort. I can walk right over the top of evil, chaos and danger and my life can be a blessing.
· Will I do this, or will I be distracted and settle for something less?
· In her classic book Be a Blessing, Elizabeth Nagel writes:-
The potential tragedy, for both descendants of Abraham and disciples of Jesus, is that they trust God too little to risk making choices based on divine views of reality.
· Against much of life which preoccupies and distracts us, God IS trustworthy, Jesus is trustworthy, the HS is trustworthy…
· What remaining questions do you have for the text, or for God? What questions is this text asking you this morning – and how will you respond?
Rev Drew Tweedy
ACTS 5:12-16; LUKE 22 24-30
As I understand it, the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES is the only record of the Early Church in action. We have to make up our minds that ‘All Scripture is God-breathed’, as Paul writes to Timothy and that this is the Church ‘in revival mode’. Thus, in our first Reading from Acts, the Apostles perform many miraculous signs, the believers are held in awe and meet peaceably in Solomon’s Colonnade, more and more men and women come to faith, even Peter’s shadow heals the sick in the streets, and all those who are ill or tormented by spirits are healed. Note there are MANY miraculous signs; the believers are held IN AWE; and MORE AND MORE men and women are coming to faith; and there is an EXTENSIVE and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE HEALING MINISTRY.
In Acts there is the Day of Day of Pentecost; many individuals are healed; there are persecutions and martyrdom; two believers drop dead when they lie to Simon Peter; there are miraculous escapes from prison, and Stephen is stoned to death in front of Saul, who is eventually transformed into Paul on the Damascus Road. And all the time the Church is growing dramatically.
In our Gospel Reading today, there is a disagreement, apparently at the Last Supper, about who the greatest apostle might be. (We are reminded of that other disagreement about who would eat with Jesus in the coming Kingdom!) Jesus makes it very clear that, as far as he is concerned, it is NOT about who rules or gets served. Rather, it is the one who submits and serves – like Jesus Himself. And the apostles will be reconciled and be part of a Kingdom where there will one day become judges the 12 tribes of Israel.
So we are being presented with a vibrant, growing Church, where CHARACTER and CONDUCT run hand in hand. In our two Readings we are directed to the CHARACTER of the fledgling Church in the Gospel and the ACTIONS of the emerging Church in the Book of Acts.
The dispute at the last supper reminds us of other challenging passages In the Sermon on the Mount, particularly in the Beatitudes, we are given very high standards of behaviour, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit…’, ‘Blessed are those who mourn…’,’Blessed are the meek…’,’Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… ‘, and so on, and even THINKING about murder or adultery is as bad as committing it … and the disciples are told that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Similarly, there are other blocks of teaching in the Gospels which are equally demanding.
Are in the Gospels, Simon Peter is a living example of a believer ‘getting things wrong’ and being forgiven: he is reluctant to go fishing again, he fails to see he is contradicting himself when he has just called Jesus the Messiah, he denies Jesus three times.
It is I believe in the Epistles of Paul (life in the Early Church after the Day of Pentecost) that we get the greatest vision of Christian character that contrasts with our Gospel Reading today.. In Romans 5:3-5, for example: “… suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.’
And then in Romans 12: 9-16 ‘love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”, and so on.
And then in 1 Corinthians 13, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes always perseveres. Love never fails.”
And then in Galatians, (5:22-23) ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’
Paul is giving us a REVELATION of Christian character after the Resurrection; in contrast, Jesus revealed his own CHARACTER before the Cross and the Resurrection. And through many other situations in the Epistles Paul and the other writers are similarly inspired to nudge us in the direction of the Holy Spirit; and, by divine inspiration, Paul and the others are painting us a picture of God’s character which is imparted to men and women by the Holy Spirit.
But how does this relate to the Church? The Church as such is only mentioned three times in the Gospels (just three times in Matthew), presumably because the focus is on the birth of the Church in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. However, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, who is Lord of the Church, was also moving on individuals in the Gospels and bringing forth God’s character in them before the Church was established: for example, in John the Baptist, in Mary, and the apostles when Jesus sends them out to minister in his Name and as they learn to relate to Him and one another in daily life.
There seems to be an emphasis on doing Jesus’ deeds rather than becoming Christ-like in character (although the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount focus on character).For example, in Luke 9, verses 1and 2, it says: ‘When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick’. However, with certain individuals like the Virgin Mary in the Magnificat her character of humility seems to be gently alluded to by the Holy Spirit. She prophesies in Luke 1: 46-47:
‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant …’
This points to another difference before and after the birth of the Church: that certain individuals prophesy before Pentecost, and then after Pentecost all the believers in Acts 2 receive the power to speak in other languages and prophesy together. According to Peter they have received ‘ the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2: 39); and Paul later describes in 1 Corinthians 12 that there are 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, speaking in different kinds of languages and interpretation of these languages), just as he had already described 9 fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control).So,
as in our two Readings today, the Holy Spirit is shaping the Church by moulding the character of the believers.
To summarise: there is no contradiction between a dispute in the Gospels and an empowered Church reaching out in the Book of Acts. The Holy Spirit in everyday situations is moulding the character of the believers more are more, so that they can become a dynamic church.
Encouraged by our two Readings, let us in turn focus on CHRISTIAN CHARACTER, so we can become a MORE VIBRANT CHURCH!
Rev Ian Howard