Walking on the Storm

This Sermon was preached on Sunday 9 August. You can watch the full service HERE

Matthew 14:22-33

Last Sunday we witnessed the magnificent miracle of Jesus feeding a massive crowd with 5 loaves and 2 small fish. Then today’s passage begins with the word: “Immediately”.

No sooner was one miracle over than the next one began to unfold.

The passage starts by saying that Jesus “made” the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side. The word is very strong. In fact it can be translated, “Jesus compelled them”.

Why would He have to compel them? Firstly, they would not normally have wanted to leave Jesus. After all, it was their calling to be with Him.

But more than that they would have been loathe to leave Jesus and go across to the other side because there was only one boat – the one Jesus came in. They would have been leaving Jesus on the far side of the lake with no boat.

But, despite their probable resistance to the idea, Jesus compelled them to leave Himalone.

Then Jesus “dismissed” the crowd. That’s also quite a strong word. Jesus sent them away.

What was Jesus up to?

Well, remember … Jesus was in mourning for His cousin John the Baptist who had been beheaded. That same morning He had come to this side of the Lake to get away and be alone with God the Father … to process His loss. But He’d not been given that opportunity. The disciples and the crowd had followed him on foot.

Jesus needed time ALONE with God … and this time there was not going to be any negotiating. This was it.

And that is exactly what Jesus did next. Matthew stresses that Jesus was alone by saying: “He climbed up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night He was there alone.”

This is the whole point of the opening scene of this narrative: Jesus went to the place of deep, personal encounter with Abba Father. And I must pass this moment quickly to get to the main point of today’s message … but not before stressing again the opening point of last week’s sermon: Make it a priority to withdraw into the “wilderness” with God. Jesus needed that … and SO DO WE.

But then in verses 23-24 Matthew sets the scene. First he shows us Jesus on the mountainside in deep, personal communion with Abba Father … then the “camera” pans away across the Lake … where we see, as Matthew puts it, “the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”

Like last week, let’s try to take a life-application look at this miracle. Let’s read it while asking what this narrative had to teach us about living as disciples and imitators of Jesus in 2020.

1. Storms happen … even to obedient disciples

The disciples were obeying Jesus.

Jesus compelled them to go … and they went in obedience.

He told them where to go. And that is exactly where they were going.

And still they sailed slap bang into the heart of a crazy wind-storm on Lake Galilee. The storm hit them just as hard as it hit any other fishermen out on the Lake that night.

It did not hit them as a judgment from God!

It did not come upon them because they had somehow sinned and messed up!

They were right in the will of God … and still they were not immune from the storm.

  • Covid-19 is a massive storm that has broken over our world!
  • The crazy explosion of Gender-Based Violence is a massive storm that has broken over our nation!
  • The wave of corruption and the fire-storm of a destroyed economy … unemployment and dehumanising poverty … are wild and fearsome storms.

Followers of Jesus are not immune.

You can be following Jesus perfectly and still get hit by the storm.

And if you doubt that this is true … Just look at the cross.

We are following the One who lived a perfect life of obedience to the will of God … yet ended that life in an unjust execution.

Storms come upon us all … even the most obedient of disciples.

So do not believe the lie that your own mind tells you … or your well-intentioned neighbour tells you … or, quite frankly the lie the devil himself whispers to you … that if bad things are happening to you … it must somehow be your own fault … you must somehow have missed the mark … or not be good enough … NO! Not true.

Look at these disciples. Look at Jesus on the Cross. And understand that … NUMBER ONE … in this fallen and broken world …  storms happen. Even to the best of disciples.

2. When storms come … keep going … and keep rowing

Matthew narrates the story magnificently. He says that the wind was contrary; and the waves were buffeting.

The Disciples’ Literal Translation accurately and literally translates verse 24: “And the boat was … being tormented by the waves. For the wind was contrary.” The storm was torturing the boat.

Jesus had said: “Row over there”. And somehow, as the weather system would have it … there was exactly the direction from whence the wind came that night. Head on. Pushing them back from whence they had come.

As the wind blew more fiercely … so the waves on this vast Lake grew larger.

Both the wind and the waves were violently opposing them … tormenting them in fact as they tried their level best to get where Jesus had sent them.

Lake Galilee is about 13km wide. The disciples had left as night fell. By the last watch of the night, 3am-6am somewhere … they still had not gotten to the far side. They were far out … far from Jesus and far from their destination.

But you have to admire their tenacity. At some point they must have dropped the sails and started to row because of the craziness of the wind and the impossibility of tacking against it. And as the storm raged … and as the waves beat the boat backwards … they kept going … they kept rowing.

I have huge admiration for that!

To be honest a lot of discipleship is like this. The lives of the majority of Christians are not like great shooting stars flashing across the sky … and they’re not meant to be. But if there’s one thing that all disciples are called to be good at … it’s keeping on keeping on.

Eugene Petersen referred to discipleship as a “Long Obedience in the Same Direction”.

That’s faithful discipleship. Showing up … day after day after day … to pursue the purpose for which Jesus has called us.

Faithful discipleship is two Christian parents both working from home with two little boys to care for … and showing up in love day after day … as the best parents they know how to be.

Faithful discipleship is the doctor who gets up day after day to haul her exhausted body back to the Wards … knowing that she is doing it in obedience to the call of God on her life.

Faithful discipleship is hating your face mask … but always wearing it in public for the good of others … because Jesus said to consider the needs of others before your own.

Faithful discipleship is not really having any words to say to your friend who faces off against the beast of depression every single day of his life … but phoning him every day anyway … to chat and pray with him.

I think a massively underrated virtue of the Christian disciple is a stubborn refusal to give up!

I love the measure of that on display in the Twelve in the Boat … they just kept going and they just kept rowing … pressing onwards in the direction Jesus had sent them in.

3. When storms come … Jesus comes

Jesus was up on the mountain beside Lake Galilee … probably up on the slopes towards what is today the Golan Heights. And in the Spirit … Jesus perceives that the disciples need Him. It’s probably not all that supernatural. A massive wind had come up. Wind on Galilee always meant a storm. The disciples were probably about 6-7km out on the Lake. Jesus had no boat.

But … no matter what it took … even if it was walking on water … Jesus came to the disciples.

Need I remind you that the angel had said that Jesus’ “other name” would be Immanuel, God with us?

Need I remind you that Jesus is the embodiment of the God who said in Isaiah 43:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”

Need I remind you that when Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego were in the fiery furnace … the LORD stood in there with them.

I don’t know about you … but in my experience … JESUS is never closer than in the heart of a storm … or a raging furnace in our lives.

It feels to me as though Jesus is magnetically attracted to our struggles and sufferings. You don’t get to go through pain and difficulty and hardship ALONE as a disciple. It simply never happens.

Jesu always comes to us. Even if it needs Him to walk-on-water.

Normally its not that. Normally He comes by the Holy Spirit  … or He comes by a fellow-believer. But He always arrives!

4. Before the storm is calmed … Jesus invites us to have faith

It’s noticeable that the disciples … who are mostly fairly hardened boatsmen … are not said to have been frightened of the storm. They were battling it out and they were weary … and they were probably in a fair amount of danger.

But it is the miraculous sight of a man walking on water that filled them with terror. Which is why Jesus’ opening line is to tell them not to let fear get the better of them because it is HE.

What Jesus was asking them to believe was that in the middle of their storm, He, Jesus, had come to them to fill them with courage and strength and to see them safely to the other side.

Jesus’ words to them are words of life to us too: Do not be afraid. I am here. Take courage.

I’m not going to spend much time on Peter’s failed water-walk. But I do want to point out that when Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness and the devil came to Him … temptation #1 was to prove His identity as the Son of God … and temptation #3 was to test God.

And PETER, God bless him, does not meet the water-walking Jesus with faith … instead he puts Him to the test.

IF it is you …!?

Friends that is what Jesus refers to at the end of the story when He says: ““How little faith you have! Why did you doubt?”

Jesus says, “It is I” … and Peter says: “Prove it”.

What can we learn practically from that?

We learn that when we are in a storm … and Jesus IS drawing near to us … we are invited and even expected to accept His presence by faith.

Our part is to believe with as much faith as we can muster … even if that is a tiny measure like a mustard seed:

  • that Jesus is with me in this storm even when I am physically all alone …
  • that this Christian friend or family member of mine who is standing with me faithfully is the embodiment of the presence of Jesus …
  • and that Jesus will keep His word and do exactly what He promised … which is to give us the power to get through the storm!

Conclusion

What response has the crazy storm of 2020 triggered in you?:

  • Anger?
  • Anxiety?
  • Bitterness?
  • Confusion?
  • Disillusionment?
  • Fear?
  • Frustration?
  • Grief?

In His grace, Jesus is walking across the water of cyberspace today … to come to you in your home and say: Take courage! It is I … To remind us that He is with us … and to invite us to TRUST Him.

And thank you Peter for pointing out by your actions that to trust Him means NOT to put Him to the test.

It means NOT to say: If that’s really you than end this pandemic NOW!

Instead to trust means to cry out to Him in our anger, fear or frustration … and to allow Him to get into the boat with us … to see us safely through this storm and get us to the other side. For, as v. 32 and 33 say:

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Worship Resources 9 August

All music streamed by Claremont Methodist Church under CCLI License # 576674

A Call to Worship

(Responses in bold print. Languages used: isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English)

Siyakudumisa Thixo!

Siya kuvuma ukuba unguYehova.

We praise You, O God, we acknowledge You to be the Lord. 

Die ganse aarde aanbid U, Ewige Vader.

Die engele loof U: die hemele en al die magte daarin.

All the earth worships You, the everlasting Father.

All the angels cry aloud to You; the heavens and all the powers therein.

Uyingcwele Uyincwele  Uyincwele: Yehova Thixo wemikhosi.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might,

Izulu lizele, kwanomhlaba: bubukhulu bobungcwalisa bakho.

Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

U heilige kerk verheerlik U;

Uyise! Obukhulu bungenambaliso.

Throughout the world the holy church acclaims You,

Father of unbounded majesty: 

Unyana wakho emnye: odumileyo,

die Heilige Gees, ons Advokaat en Gids

UnguKumkani wobungcwalisa: wena Kristu!

True and only Son of God, worthy of worship;

Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ, are the King of glory, the eternal Son of the Father.

Now and forever. Amen.

Hosanna

Brooke Ligertwood | © 2006 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Sheer Publishing (Pty) Ltd)

1. I see the King of glory; Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes
The whole earth shakes

We see His love and mercy
Washing over all our sins
The people sing
The people sing

Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

2. I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith

I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees
We’re on our knees

Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Praise To The Lord The Almighty

Joachim Neander (1650-1680) | Translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

1.Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation
O my soul praise Him, For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, brothers and sisters draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration

2. Praise to the Lord, Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
Who with His love doth befriend thee

3. Praise to the Lord, Who when tempests their warfare are waging
Who when the elements madly around thee are raging
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging

4. Praise to the Lord, Who when darkness of sin is abounding
Who when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding
Sheddeth His light; chaseth the horrors of night
Saints with His mercy surrounding

5. Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him
Let the amen sound from His people again
Gladly, for aye we adore Him

God Of Wonders

CCLI Song # 3118757 | Marc Byrd | Steve Hindalong | © 2000 Never Say Never Songs (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

1. Lord of all creation
Of water earth and sky
The heavens are Your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on high

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy holy
Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

2. Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
When I stumble in the darkness
I will call Your name by night

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy holy
Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

Hallelujah (to the Lord of heaven and earth)
Hallelujah (to the Lord of heaven and earth)
Hallelujah (to the Lord of heaven and earth)

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy holy
Precious Lord reveal Your heart to me
Father hold me hold me
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy holy holy holy

Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

Benediction

Die Here sal julle seën en behoed;

The Lord bless you and keep you

Die Here sal tot julle redding verskyn en julle genadig wees;

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you

Die Here sal julle gebede verhoor en aan julle vrede gee!

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you; And give you His peace. Amen

And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The love of God; And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all now and forevermore. Amen.

And the joy of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you. Amen.

Compassionate Feeding

Matthew 14:13-21

Introduction:

Today we change gears a little bit, and we go from having had a three-week mini-series in the parables of Jesus, to what will be a three-week mini-series of miracles.

Once that is done, we are going to take a ten-week wander through the wilderness with the people of God as we follow the lectionary readings through the Book of Exodus. So, start getting excited about that journey!

But now, let’s leap into today’s reading. As we begin, I encourage you to have the text open in front of you.

Look with me at verse 13, and notice that it says “When Jesus heard what had happened”.

Now, that is a statement we cannot ignore. It’s pointing us back to the preceding passage. Matthew wants us to know that Jesus had a reason for what He did next. Cast your eye back to the preceding passage.

The only relative of Jesus who actually believed in Him up to this point is John the Baptist. Here is the man who had rejoiced over Jesus supernaturally in the womb … who had announced Jesus’ coming and prepared the way for His ministry … and who had baptised Him. They had shared that life-changing experience of the heavens opening and the voice of God the Father blessing Jesus in love, while the Holy Spirit descended on Him. Needless to say, John was VERY special to Jesus.

And notice that in the preceding passage, King Herod has just had John beheaded in jail, where he had been languishing for months for having dared to prophetically renounce Herod’s sin … and then his head had been put on display on a platter and paraded in front of the guests at a banquet by a dancing girl.

Verse 12 tells us: “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”

Verse 13: “When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately, to a solitary place.”

Just from that verse, I want to highlight these facts. When we meet Jesus in this moment, Jesus is:

  • Mourning for John the Baptist: He is experiencing intense emotions of sadness and grief. But I think, more than that, He must have been feeling a huge sense of the impending darkness of His own destiny. Death had come knocking very close to home. His grief was compounded by a sense of having lost the only person who as yet really understood His identity.
  • Desperate for solitude in a wilderness place: Jesus felt the deep need to get away from everyone, to be alone with His Father to process what had happened and to pray. Read that verse and notice with me that it says that He withdrew privately … to a solitary place. And allow me to point out that in the Greek, the verb is singular. This is why our English versions don’t say that “THEY” withdrew … nor … “Jesus and His disciples withdrew. Jesus withdrew ALONE … He even left the disciples behind … in my reading of this verse.

Jesus is in a place of deeply personal grieving and pain!

But what does v.13 continue to say?

Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. Someone had seen the boat sail off … they had realised more or less where it was headed. And they followed. And that crowd included the Twelve. So that when Jesus landed, v.14 says: “He saw a large crowd!”

Now you can have the total freedom to be honest right now, because you’re fairly alone, in House Church. You might have someone with you who is a close family member … but would you mind expressing out loud what your reaction would have been if you were in Jesus’ shoes and you had made a great effort to carve out time alone for yourself … maybe made a plan to drive off to a remote mountain cottage somewhere for two days of prayer and silence … only to discover on arrival that the very people you had been trying to get away from were on the driveway waiting for you.

But look at Jesus’ response … our magnificent Saviour! The One who is the perfect image of the invisible GOD! The One who is our perfect example and Whom we should be imitating and growing to be LIKE!

In verse 14 we read that Jesus:

  • Had compassion on them
  • And then in succession He both heals their illnesses, and
  • Feeds them miraculously … a crowd of 5000 men plus women and children from just 5 loaves and 2 small fish.

Now, Olga has read us the passage and I won’t spend much time on the details … instead I would love us to reflect on what this passage has to say to us today! And I intend to draw out four very practical applications of this passage for today.

1. Make it a priority to withdraw into the “wilderness” with God.

Jesus our Saviour needed time alone with His Father in Heaven.We will need it too. Don’t be ashamed of that need. Don’t deny yourself that time alone with God. In fact, prioritise it, embrace it … and pursue it … make whatever arrangements are necessary to be able to have it.

Remember it is not that God is out in the wilderness of solitude waiting for you … but rather that the God who is with us in the cut and thrust of everyday life and in the darkest depths of our pain … invites us to come aside to have uninterrupted time alone with Him … so that He can help us to process everything that’s happening.

Especially in this global season of pain and suffering and grief … I sincerely want to encourage each and every one of us to embrace moments of solitude on a regular basis to process our feelings with GOD!

Daily, if at all possible … and then for longer periods a few times per year. An hour alone with God each day properly processing our lives in prayer… but also a few hours of silent time alone with God once a month or every second month.  Let’s take responsibility for ourselves and make it happen!

Abba Father is inviting us all to spend this time with Him.

2. In the darkest moments, notice the opportunities of ministry that come

The place to which Jesus withdrew was not only a quiet, remote, serene, or even “lonely” as some translations put it.  It is described with the Greek word “eremos”. It was the desert, the wilderness, a deserted and desolate place. In some ways it was an outward symbol of Jesus’ inner desolation.

Into that scene comes not only a host of people with desperate needs for healing; but as the story unfolds, it is filled with a crowd of probably about 8000 hungry people (5000 men).

But … if we remember the words of prophets like Isaiah … Jesus came to transform the wilderness back into a life-giving place.  He said that when salvation comes, the desert will bloom, streams will flow in the wilderness, myrtle and flowers will grow instead of weeds and thorns. 

Right there in the chaos and heartache and desperate need of the wilderness … Jesus sees not a disaster to flee away from … or a problem to avoid. Jesus sees an opportunity to bring His ministry of salvation!

So Jesus heals their diseases … and then Jesus feeds this mass of people! The lesson to us as imitators and followers of Christ … is that we ought to expect that in the moments and places of desolation … opportunities will present themselves for us to minister in Jesus’ Name. And we need to keep our eyes and ears open for them … and be receptive to them.

3. Allow the compassion of God to be birthed in your heart

In this scene, Jesus is the One with blood-red eyes and tear-stained cheeks … whose hands are trembling from the sorrow of it all.  And yet out of his own place of emotional darkness, He sees the needs of others and He immediately experiences deep compassion for them.

This is a beautiful work of the Spirit of God. And it is something we should expect Him to do in us. BUT it is something that we will need to cooperate with.

In this season of the Covid-19 pandemic and all the suffering that so many people are experiencing … and that so many listening to this today might be experiencing … it would be very easy to turn our hearts away from feeling the pain of others.

It can feel too overwhelming. It can feel unfair that we are not allowed to just experience our own pain … but are so confronted, day in and day out with the pain and needs of others. This is a season in which it is very easy to be selfish … and to focus only on our own situation.

I think that’s sort of what the disciples were doing. They saw the great hunger of the crowd. And they probably felt compassion for them. And yet they wanted the need to go away! Lord, send them away. This shouldn’t be our problem! Send them away to sort themselves out!

 BUT not Jesus!

Jesus feels compassion and is moved to do something about the need. And so Jesus brings forth an abundance of life and joy as He meets those needs.

  • How often have we seen Christ-like examples of this during this COVID-19 pandemic?  How often haven’t we seen exhausted and emotionally drained doctors and nurses soldier on in a desperate attempt to bring life in the midst of so much death? 
  • How often haven’t we seen friends and neighbours—themselves as scared of this virus as anyone else—reach out to help, to soothe, to comfort, to do what they could even if they had to do it from a social distance?
  • How many in our beautiful country are moved by compassion to give generously and to work tirelessly to put food in the stomachs of desperately hungry people.

Jesus did this CRAZY miracle by somehow reaching deep into himself to find the strength to go on in the face of so much that is wrong with this world, in the face of senselessness and disorientation.

As imitators and followers of Christ, that is our calling too!

4. Focus on what you DO have and what you CAN do

This is where I just love the account. Jesus commands the disciples to give the crowd something to eat.

They understandably explain the impossibility to Jesus: “All we have is five loaves of bread and two small fish.”

What does Jesus say? “Bring them to Me.”

Then He sits the people down … He raises the bread to heaven and prays:

“Baruch hatah Adonai, Elohim em melecha olaam, ha motzi lechem, meen ha aritz” // “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth!”

Then He breaks the loaves … gives them to the disciples … and the disciples distribute the bread. And the whole crowd eats and are satisfied. AWESOME.

Jesus has a way even today … of ignoring our complaints about what we DON’T have and CAN’T do … and instead taking what we DO have … touching it with His power … and then sending us out to do what we CAN do. And then somehow … infused with His power … our feeble contribution and feeble efforts become life-transforming for others … and for us.

This passage has profound connections to the Lord’s Supper … in which Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to the disciples!

In that context Jesus taught us that “This bread is My Body, broken for you.”

Jesus saw the need of the world of humanity … lost and dying … and He took what He did have and did what He could do … He gave His body sacrificially for the salvation of the world!

I want to invite you today …. When this service ends … to take ten minutes to do a bit of a spiritual exercise. Take a roll or a croissant or a muffin or a slice of bread. Go and sit somewhere quietly with it.

Then ask the Lord: “What need do I see around me – in my family, circle of friends, neighbourhood or city – which moves me to feel Your compassion?”

Then ask Him: “What is there – no matter how small – that I DO have and CAN do to somehow minister to that need?”

Then let that piece of bread symbolise THAT resource you DO have and that action you CAN take.”

Raise that piece of bread, roll, croissant, muffin, biscuit before the Lord and thank God for giving you the resource and the ability you have just identified … and then break the bread and pray a prayer of commitment along these lines: “LORD, thank you for blessing me with this resource and ability. I sacrifice it to You now and commit myself to DO what I can DO in the power of Your Holy Spirit, to make a difference in my world. “This is MY offering … given to YOU”!

AMEN. Let us pray.

Worship Resources | 2 August

All music streamed by Claremont Methodist Church under CCLI License # 576674

A Call to Worship based on Psalm 145

(Responses in bold print. Languages used: isiXhosa, Afrikaans, English)

We exalt You, our God the King. We praise Your name for ever and ever.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love!

Ndidumise igama lakho, kude kube ngunaphakade

The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all he has made!

Ons verkondig U lof! Ons loof U naam!

All Your works praise You Lord, Your faithful people extol You!

We tell of the glory of Your kingdom, And speak of Your power!

We exalt You, our God the King. We praise Your name for ever and ever.

You are trustworthy in all You promise and faithful in all You do.

You uphold all who fall, And lift up all who are bowed down.

Ndidumise igama lakho, kude kube ngunaphakade

You are near to all who call on You.

You fulfil the desires of all who are in awe of You

You hear their cry and save them.

Ons verkondig U lof! Ons loof U naam!

We praise Your name for ever and ever. Amen!

This is Amazing Grace

CCLI Song # 6333821 | © 2012 Bethel Music Publishing | Phil Wickham Music

1. Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
Who leaves us breathless in awe and wonder
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace; This is unfailing love
That You would take my place;
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life;
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for,
all that You’ve done for me

2. Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace;This is unfailing love
That You would take my place;
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life;
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for,
all that You’ve done for me

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain; Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
(Repeat)

This is amazing grace;This is unfailing love
That You would take my place;
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life;
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for,
all that You’ve done for me

To God be the Glory

Francis Jane van Alstyne (1820 – 1915) | Public Domain

Bongani, Bongani, inKosi yezulu

Bongani, Bongani abantu bo Thixo

Yizani kuBawo osezulwini

Dumisani uYehovah ezulwini

1. To God be the glory, great things He hath done,

So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,

And opened the life-gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the earth hear His voice;

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the people rejoice;

Oh, come to the Father,

through Jesus the Son,

And give Him the glory;

great things He hath done.

2. Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,

To every believer the promise of God;

The vilest offender who truly believes,

That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the earth hear His voice;

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the people rejoice;

Oh, come to the Father,

through Jesus the Son,

And give Him the glory;

great things He hath done.

3. Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,

And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;

But purer, and higher, and greater will be

Our wonder, our transport when Jesus we see.

Bongani, Bongani, inKosi yezulu

Bongani, Bongani abantu bo Thixo

Yizani kuBawo osezulwini

Dumisani uYehovah ezulwini

Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah (Cwm Rhondda)

William Williams (1717-1791) | tr. Peter Williams | © Words: Public Domain

Please see isiXhosa translation below for those who prefer!

1. Guide me O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand
Bread of heaven Bread of heaven
Feed me now and ever more
Feed me now and ever more

2.Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow
Let the fiery cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through
Strong Deliverer strong Deliverer
Be Thou still my strength and shield
Be Thou still my strength and shield

3. When I tread the verge of Jordan
Bid my anxious fears subside
Death of death and hell’s destruction
Land me safe on Canaan’s side
Songs of praises songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee
I will ever give to Thee

OR JOIN WITH THE ISIXHOSA VERSION

Translation by W.S. Davis | Public Domain

1. Ndikhokhele, O Yehova! Ndingumhambi nKosi yam;

Unamandla: andinawo, Onobuthathaka ndim.

O mSindisi! NguWe olikhaka lam.

2. Lowo mthombo wosindiso; Owavulwa ngenxa yam;

Ma uvele umpompze; Uzihlamb’ izoono zam.

O mSindisi! NguWe oluncedo lwam.

3. Ndifikile eJordane, Susa izoyiko zam;

Z’undikhaphe, se ndiwela: Yiba ungumNcedi wam.

O mSidisi! NguWe olithemba lam.

Benediction

Makakusikelele uYehova, akugcine |

The Lord bless you and keep you

Makabukhanyise uYehova ubusobakhe kuwe, akubabale |

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you

Makabuphakamisele uYehova ubuso bakhe kuwe, akunike uxolo |

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you; And give you His peace. Amen

And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The love of God; And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all now and forevermore. Amen.

And the joy of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you. Amen.

Parables of the Kingdom

Matthew 13:31-33 and 44-46

As we begin our reflection today … just a quick reminder about the nature of parables.

PARABLES

The parables are truth-telling stories which express “comparisons” or “likenesses” between the story told and the Kingdom of God.

The parables are limited … in that they express one or two truths about the Kingdom. They do NOT explain EVERYTHING about the Kingdom. So we really need to grab on tightly to the central point of each parable.

KINGDOM

Then, another quick reminder about the Kingdom. The Kingdom Jesus talks about is not a geographic kingdom. It is the realm of God’s rule and reign over human lives, through the LORDSHIP of God’s Saviour-King … JESUS.

So when we hear Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of God or the “Kingdom of Heaven” … we need to know that He is not talking about heaven after death. He is talking about God’s rule and reign in the here and now world we live in. That rule and reign is present within human lives and human communities to the extent that Jesus Christ is enthroned there as LORD and KING.

So now … on to today’s 4 parables … which express, I believe, 3 key truths about the Kingdom of God in our lives and in our world.

The Kingdom GROWS irresistibly

31 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’

Let’s leave aside all the botany today. What is Jesus saying?

A tiny, tiny seed grows into a mighty, spreading tree which provides welcoming shade and rest for  the weary birds of the air … and the Kingdom of God starts out as a tiny, tiny presence in the world … just JESUS. But it grows to twelve people, then 120 people, then 3 000, then 5 000 … and now? Billions!

It starts in one tiny province of the Roman Empire, Judea. Then to Samaria … then to Asia … then to Europe … and now? Every nation on earth.

The Kingdom of God grows irresistibly.

And … joy of joys … we are a tiny part of that great TREE. Our little corner of the global Family of God … Claremont and Kenilworth Methodist Church … is a tiny twig on that great tree … and you and I each individually are …you could say … even tinier cells in the structure of that twig. But we are part of something great and glorious and forever growing!

And you know what? It grows inside us too.

But inside us it grows differently. Inside us it grows in the ay Jesus described in His next word picture:

The Kingdom TRANSFORMS powerfully

33 He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’ …

If bread is baked without yeast … it’s sort of dead and tasteless … isn’t it?

Matzos or unleavened bread or biscuits … let’s be honest … tasteless. Even unpleasant in the mouth … hard and crisp and dry … sort of dead really.

But add the yeast to the dough … and give it time to work its magic … and then bake it in the oven and … O my word my mouth is watering already. That dough comes to life … it rises … it fills with little air pockets … and when you bake it in the oven it rises and comes out light and fluffy and delicious.

Total transformation. All the ingredients would be the same … but add the yeast and everything changes … everything comes to life … gets filled with flavours and textures and delight.

This … says Jesus … is how the Kingdom of God grows inside you and me. The life-giving power of the Kingdom brings transformation to our lives.

Having committed our lives to Christ … slowly … gradually … yet inexorably … we change … as the yeast of the Holy Spirit of Jesus within us works a transformation in our lives.

Our desires begin to change … from self-centred to selfless.

Our character begins to change.

Our behaviour beings to change.

Our priorities begin to change.

Slowly … gradually … but surely … we are transformed inwardly:

  • from impatient to patient
  • from being slaves to our fleshly desires to having self-controlled freedom to live in holiness;
  • from harshness to gentleness
  • from fearful to faithful
  • from hatred to love
  • from frantic rushing to perform and be noticed  … to restful, peaceful security in our place as the Beloved of God.

The Kingdom TRANSFORMS powerfully … and knowing that makes sense of the next two parables …

3. The Kingdom is PRICELESS

44 ‘…The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Once again … Let’s not get bogged down in the details of the stories. These two stories clearly make a great point. When you discover the truth about the Kingdom of God, you’ll give up anything to have it … which is a good thing … because you can’t really have it unless you prioritise it over everything.

It is priceless.

To be loved by the Creator of the Universe? Priceless

To have God sacrifice His life for yours? Priceless

To have all one’s sins forgiven and one’s conscience totally cleansed? Priceless!

To be adopted into God’s family as a beloved child? Priceless

To have the Holy Spirit of God come and live within one for the rest of one’s life? Priceless

To receive power to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus? Priceless

To receive supernatural spiritual gifts to empower you for living life in the Kingdom? Priceless

To receive a guaranteed place in the eternal kingdom of God which surpasses human death … spiritual immortality in other words? Priceless.

There is nothing worth more than coming home to the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is priceless.

To the man in the parable … there was nothing worth more than the treasure in the field or the pearl at the market. He went home and sold everything else he owned and invested it all in the new-found treasure.

Conclusion

Jesus’ parable here actually ends on a note of invitation.

Yes it’s a declaration that being a citizen of the Kingdom of God is worth more than everything else in your life!

But it’s also an invitation … to make a radical decision for yourself … that actually you will invest everything you are and everything you have in your citizenship of this Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is not something we add to our lives. It is something we receive by deciding that JESUS … and the Kingdom of which He is the KING … is more valuable to us than anything in this world.

We receive it by dethroning everything else that is currently in a place of higher importance, or worth or power in our lives … and enthroning JESUS as KING.

Will you do that today?

Will you do that for the first time?

Will you recommit yourself to doing that? Please join me in prayer!

Worship Resources 26 July

All music streamed by Claremont Methodist Church under CCLI License # 576674

A Call to Worship based on Psalm 105

(Responses in bold print. Languages used: isiXhosa, Afrikaans, English)

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness.

Let the whole world know what He has done.
We will sing to the Lord our God.

We will sing God’s praises,

and tell everyone about the wonderful deeds of our Lord.

Bulelani kuYehovah, ngokuba elungile!

We will exult in His holy name.

We will rejoice and worship the Lord.

We will seek the Lord and His strength.
We will seek His face continually

Loof die Here, en verkondig Sy almag!

Remember the wonders He has performed

and His miracles on behalf of His chosen ones.

He is the Lord our God.

His justice is seen throughout the land.

There’s A Light Upon The Mountains

Henry Burton (1840-1930) | Public Domain

1. There’s a light upon the mountains
And the day is at the spring
When our eyes shall see the beauty
And the glory of the King
Weary was our heart with waiting
And the night watch seemed so long
But His triumph day is breaking
And we hail it with a song

2. In the fading of the starlight
We can see the coming morn
And the lights of men are paling
In the splendours of the dawn
For the eastern skies are glowing
As with light of hidden fire
And the hearts of men are stirring
With the throbs of deep desire

3. There’s a hush of expectation
And a quiet in the air
And the breath of God is moving
In the fervent breath of prayer
For the suffering dying Jesus
Is the Christ upon the throne
And the travail of our spirit
Is the travail of His own

4. He is breaking down the barriers
He is casting up the way
He is calling for His angels
To build up the gates of day
But His angels here are human
Not the shining hosts above
For the drum beats of His army
Are the heart beats of our love

5. Hark we hear a distant music
And it comes with fuller swell
Tis the triumph song of Jesus
Of our King Immanuel
Zion go ye forth to meet Him
And my soul be swift to bring
All thy sweetness and thy dearest
For the triumph of our King

Bless The Lord

Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman | © 2011 Atlas Mountain Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

1. The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

2. You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

3. And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

Worship Your holy name
Lord I’ll worship Your holy name

All Things Rise

Sam Yoder | © 2015 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing (ASCAP) | Admin. worldwide by Vineyard Music.

1. God, how beautiful Your Holy Word

That formed the worlds in such goodness

O, the shame that we would spurn it all

To turn and fall into darkness

2. God, we’ll sing how through Your Son You turned

This loss and hurt into glory

How when scorned in death You raised Him up

His gain’s become the whole world’s story

Let all things rise and bless Your name

All things made right and new again

O Lord our God, Your goodness

Is free and boundless

Is reaching endless through it all

3. And on this road with every step we take

Your faithfulness is our portion

You’ve prepared a city bright and fair

Whose gates forever stay o – pen

4. Son of God, in You we’ve taken up

The way of love’s occupation

O, the joy to share in Your reward

The stunning turn of new crea – tion

Let all things rise and bless Your name

All things made right and new again

O Lord our God, Your goodness

Is free and boundless

Is reaching endless through it all

Just as You promised, God, Your Son was Raised up

In Him, we’ll follow, in Him we’ll all be Raised up (Repeat)

O Lord, you’ve made yourself a home

Heaven and earth forever one

All things once sown in weakness

You raise in promise

Your beauty arches above it all

Benediction

The Lord bless you and keep you

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you; And give you His peace. Amen

And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The love of God; And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all now and forevermore. Amen.

And the joy of the Lord be always with you.And also with you. Amen.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43

By way of introduction to this particular parable Jesus told … just a quick reminder about the nature of parables.

Jesus told these stories we call parables to help us to hear and understand and appreciate spiritual truths – truths about the invisible kingdom of God which He had come to establish.

They are truth-telling stories because they express “comparisons” or “likenesses” between the story told and the Kingdom of God. So, the parable will often begin with Jesus saying: “The Kingdom of God (or the “Kingdom of heaven”, which is a synonym for the Kingdom of God) is like … this … and telling a story.

The parables, however, are limited … expressing one or two truths about the Kingdom. They are NOT told to explain EVERYTHING about the Kingdom. So we really need to be careful not to push the parable beyond what Jesus intended to communicate … and rather try to grab on tightly to the central point.

Fortunately for us … like the parable we looked at last week … Jesus actually explained and unpacked this week’s parable for us.

So here’s the story as Jesus told it:

24 Jesus told them another parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

Don’t you just love that. What a great story. One can imagine it dramatized and watched on TV.

You watch as the field is carefully ploughed over after the rains. The best seed from last year’s crop is carefully sowed. At the end of a long hot Galilean day the landowner and his servants go off to their well-deserved night’s rest. But as the camera shows them leaving the fields for the night, the camera angle has changed. It’s a view from between the shrubby trees that grow around the field. You turn to your friend on the sofa and go, “Hah, someone’s watching.”

The camera angle shifts again and you see the villain. “Whahaha” he laughs as he rubs his hands together in glee. Once its fully dark, he calls his sons out from the shadows and into the fields they go … tossing out more seed. How puzzling! But the background music tells you this is something deeply sinister.

A few weeks later:

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did these weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“How does he know that?” you might ask.

Well, the weeds are what was called “zizania” and today is called “darnel”. This is a wild grass that is virtually identical to wheat until the head begins to form. Now one or two of these plants would have grown wild in any Galilean wheat field but the servants and master can see how numerous they are and there’s only one conclusion. An enemy has oversown the field with weeds.

You might say, “Oh come one. Would anyone do that?”

Well Jesus isn’t being far-fetched with this story. This was actually such a well-known form of agricultural terrorism that there was a Roman Law that criminalised it and imposed punishment for the crime.

Back to the story now …

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

2“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Now even this is a very logical ending to the story. What made this such an effective form of agricultural terrorism was that once darnel became distinguishable from the wheat … the roots had already become so entangled that one could not weed the field safely. You would inevitably pull out good wheat plants along with the darnel.

And so, although time-consuming, the harvest would be brought in and then sorted by hand to separate the grey coloured darnel heads from the golden wheat harvest.

The Kingdom

So what on earth was Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of God through this parable.

Quick Comment:

  • When Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God … the disciples always thought that He meant an earthly Kingdom where God’s Saviour-King, called the “Messiah”, would rule over a physical, geographic, earthly Kingdom.
  • But Jesus made it clear throughout His ministry that the Kingdom of God is essentially the Realm of God’s rule and reign over human lives, through the LORDSHIP of God’s Saviour-King, called the “Messiah” or … as Jesus sometimes referred to Himself … the Son of Man.

Jesus taught that this Kingdom would exist on the earth from the time of His Resurrection until what He called the “End of the Age” – which we often refer to with reference to the event that marks it: The Second Coming of Christ.

So when we hear Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of God or the “Kingdom of Heaven” … we need to know that He is not talking about heaven after death. He is talking about God’s rule and reign in the here and now word we live in.

So back to the Bible passage … and picking it up at v.36:

36 Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

A Quick retelling …

Now … using Jesus’ explanation … let’s quickly retell the story

  1. God is the Owner and King of all the world.
  2. Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, came into the world … still comes into the world today in fact through the Hoy Spirit … and places His Kingdom people in the world. If you are in Christ and surrendered to His Lordship … then that’s you. You are a wheat plant in this parable.
  3. But the evil one, Satan, is also at work in the world … and he deliberately has his agents at work for evil in the world too.
  4. QUICK SIDENOTE: Remember we are not meant to go beyond the central truth of the parable. So this parable doesn’t tell us what we already know … which is that:
    1. people enter the Kingdom of God through repentance from our evil ways and placing our faith in Jesus. He doesn’t tell us in the parable that we who have surrendered to the Lordship of Christ are therefore Kingdom people because the KING is reigning in our lives. He doesn’t say that because that’s not His point here. But we know that is so.
    1. He also doesn’t say that children  of the evil one are those who allow their own desires and temptations to rule their lives… because He’ll teach that elsewhere. This is not the central point. But I point that out here because I don’t want us to be confused.
  5. So the parable therefore goes on to teach that children of the Kingdom and children of the evil one will continue to exist side by side in this world until the end of the age. The Kingdom of God … present in the world through the children of the Kingdom living under the influence of the Holy Spirit … (represented in the parable by the golden wheat) will always be growing in the presence of the kingdom of darkness … present in the world through those living under the influence of the evil one through their own desires and temptations (represented in the parable by the darnel weeds).
  6. But at the end of the age … there will be a separation … which will last for eternity. That day is coming … but the point of the parable is that this day is NOT NOW … it’s not even now-now or just-now … its only at the end of time!

The essence of the story of the parable.

As disciples of Jesus … until our death or the end of the age comes … we will ALWAYS be in a world where there is rampant evil.

This means we will always be in a world surrounded by:

  • suffering …
  • and disease …
  • pandemics …
  • hardship and hunger and hatred …
  • bitterness & unforgiveness,
  • pride, greed and arrogance,
  • sexual immorality … and broken families.
  • a world of falsehood and hypocrisy and envy.

We will … until our death or the end of the age comeslive among those who put on the appearance of religion and even Christianity … and seem virtually indistinguishable from the real deal. We may become confused by people claiming the name of Christ and yet doing things which go against what we know of the teaching of Christ.

Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds was surely told to make the main point that this is how it will be … so don’t be surprised and don’t be discouraged and don’t be overwhelmed … WAIT for God to sort it out … in His timing.

And this gives me the strong suspicion that, when telling this parable, Jesus may have had in mind the time James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village because they would not receive Jesus (Luke 9:54).

Commentator Scott Hoezee says:

“The danger is not being in the presence of sin but trying to root out all the sin we see. But that means that the real challenge presented to the church by Matthew 13 is finding the strength to resist the temptation to take matters into our own hands and start yanking up every sinful thing we see every time we see it. As Robert Farrar Capon points out, when in verse 30 the master tells the servants just to “let” things be, the Greek word used there is the same word used in the Lord’s Prayer and elsewhere for “forgiveness.”” Those who have ears to hear . . .

Judgment and rooting out evil people is not your place, Jesus seems to be saying through this parable:

  • Why don’t you rather recognise that your job, Christ-follower, is to grow into the most beautiful and most fruitful Christ-follower you can be … the most golden and luscious head of wheat … to coin a parabolic phrase.
  • Why don’t you rather focus on standing strong and firm in a life of righteousness, faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness and self-control … a life of courageous morality, faithfulness, goodness and godliness in the midst of a wicked generation.
  • Why don’t you rather focus on finding the godly solutions to the consequences of the Fall and work for healing of bodies and souls, families and communities.

The job of the wheat is not to pull out the weeds. The job of the wheat is to grow to be the healthiest and most productive plant it can possibly be … and not allow itself to be choked out by the kingdom of darkness all around.

Friends … let us not lose heart. Let us not give in to despair at the brokenness of the world. A new day and a new earth and a new life in the eternal kingdom of heaven will come … but until then … the kingdom is to be lived out right here on earth … as light in the midst of all the darkness … and wheat in the midst of all the weeds.

Worship Words Sun 19 July

A Call to Worship based on Psalm 86

(Responses in bold print. Languages used: isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Shona, Malagasy, Sesotho, English)

Dumisani uYehova. Praise the Lord

You are our God! Have mercy on us, for to You we call, all day long.

You are our God! Bring us joy, Lord, for we put our trust in You!

Loof die Here! Praise the Lord

You are our God! You are forgiving and good,

abounding in love to all who call on You.

When we are in distress we call to You, because You answer us.

Rea u boka Morena! Praise the Lord!

You are our God! You are great and do marvellous deeds.

You alone are God.

We will praise You Lord, with all our hearts, and glorify Your Name foreve r.

Rumbidzai Jehovha! Praise the Lord!

You are our God! You are gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.

Derao ny Tompoko! Praise the Lord!

You are our God! Turn to us and show us mercy.

Save us, for we serve You.

You are our help and our comforter.

Show us Your goodness as we worship You today.

Amen!

You Are God Alone

CCLI Song # 4243463 | Billy J. Foote | Cindy Foote | © 2004 Billy Foote Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG | Streamed by Claremont Methodist Church under CCLI License 576674

1. You are not a god created
By human hands
You are not a god dependent
On any mortal man
You are not a god in need of
Anything we can give
By Your plan
That’s just the way it is

You are God alone from before time began
You were on Your throne,
You are God alone
And right now in the good times and bad
You are on Your throne You are God alone

2. You’re the only God whose power
None can contend
You’re the only God whose name and
Praise will never end
You’re the only God who’s worthy
Of ev’rything we can give
You are God
That’s just the way it is

You are God alone from before time began
You were on Your throne,
You are God alone
And right now in the good times and bad
You are on Your throne You are God alone

You’re unchangeable You’re unshakable
You’re unstoppable that’s what You are
(Repeat)

You are God alone from before time began
You were on Your throne,
You are God alone
And right now in the good times and bad
You are on Your throne You are God alone

What A Faithful God

CCLI Song # 605095 | Dawn Critchley | Robert Critchley | © 1989 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) | Live Streamed by Claremont Methodist Church under CCLI License #576674

1.Lord I come before Your throne of grace
I find rest in Your presence
And fullness of joy in worship
And wonder I behold Your face
Singing what a faithful God have I

What a faithful God have I
What a faithful God
What a faithful God have I
Faithful in every way

2. Lord of mercy You have heard my cry
Through the storm You’re the beacon
My song in the night
In the shelter of Your wings hear my heart’s reply
Singing what a faithful God have I

What a faithful God have I
What a faithful God
What a faithful God have I
Faithful in every way

3. Lord all-sovereign, granting peace from heaven
Let me comfort those who suffer
With the comfort You have given
I will tell of Your great love for as long as I live
Singing what a faithful God have I

What a faithful God have I
What a faithful God
What a faithful God have I
Faithful in every way

Come Ye Thankful People Come

Henry Alford (1810-1871)  | Public Domain

1. Come ye thankful people come
Raise the song of harvest-home
All is safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin
God our Maker doth provide
For our wants to be supplied
Come to God’s own temple come
Raise the song of harvest home

2. All the world is God’s own field
Fruit unto His praise to yield
Wheat and tares together sown
Unto joy or sorrow grown
First the blade and then the ear
Then the full corn shall appear
Lord of harvest grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be

3. For the Lord our God shall come
And shall take His harvest home
From His field shall in that day
All offenses purge away
Give His angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast
But the fruitful ears to store
In His garner evermore

4. Even so Lord quickly come
To Thy final harvest home
Gather Thou Thy people in
Free from sorrow free from sin
There forever purified
In Thy presence to abide
Come with all Thine angels come
Raise the glorious harvest-home

Benediction

The Lord bless you and keep you

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you; And give you His peace. Amen

And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The love of God; And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all now and forevermore. Amen.

And the joy of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you. Amen.

Parable of the Soils

Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23

I love stories!

When I was little, my mom taught me to read before I went off to school and I have loved it ever since. I love words and I love stories. The rule in our house was that I was not allowed to turn my light on until 05h30. So when I woke before dawn, all excited to know what was going to happen to the Famous Five next, I had to read under my blanket with my torch. Some of you used to do that too, I’m sure. And there under my blanket I was whisked away by the magical power of the story, to places like treasure islands and mystery moors, secret tunnels and dungeons, meeting gypsies and smugglers, solving mysteries and crimes.

Now Jesus told great stories too. But unlike the Famous Five or Harry Potter, or the series you are currently watching on your streaming service, they were not told to whisk us away to an imaginary world where we can escape from the responsibilities and burdens of our actual lives.

Jesus told stories to help us to hear and understand and appreciate spiritual truths – truths about the invisible kingdom of God which He had come to establish. Those stories are called “parables”. In Afrikaans we call them vergelykenisse, which literally means “comparisons” or “likenesses”. So, the parable will often begin with Jesus saying: “The Kingdom of God (or of heaven) is like … this … and telling a story.

When we meet up with Jesus in Matthew 13, he is just about to start telling a series of parables, and we read as follows:

1… Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables:

Jesus is sitting by Lake Galilee. A crowd gathers.

In order to be heard by everybody, Jesus uses a boat (maybe one belonging to one of the local fishermen-disciples) as a platform; He uses the water of the lake as a microphone and the gentle slope of the shore as an amplifier, and speaks to those gathered on the shoreline. He tells about an everyday occurrence in rural Galilee. It’s a story they would all be able to identify with because they would have grown up seeing farmers sowing seed, and crops growing from the earth, with varying degrees of fruitfulness.

Jesus told this story:

3 ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.’

Now, like the crowd on the lakeshore, you and I need to ask ourselves, what is the spiritual truth locked up in this story?

Fortunately for us … and maybe because this was a foundational parable for the many that were to follow … Jesus actually explains the meaning of what He calls in v.18, “The parable of the sower.” He says:

1‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 

19 when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path

20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 

22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 

23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’

I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that the following is crystal clear:

  1. The Sower: Whether it was Jesus then, or a modern-day messenger, the sower is anyone who sends out the TRUE message of the Kingdom of God. For the crowd on the shoreline the sower was Jesus Himself. For the people of Jerusalem after Pentecost, the sower was Peter or John or one of the other apostles. For you, today and right now, the sower is me. But hopefully later today the sower will be you, as you talk to a family member or friend about Jesus and His love. The sower is anyone communicating the good news of Jesus and His Kingdom. The other element of the parable which is crystal clear is …
  2. The Seed: Similarly, it’s crystal clear that the seed is the message. The seed is that truth about Jesus and His Kingdom which is communicated. Whether the message is about:
    1.  what Jesus has done … or about
    1. how a person can enter the Kingdom of Jesus for the first time … or about
    1. how to live our daily lives as citizens of the Kingdom.

The message is represented by the seed in the parable.

So, what is this parable telling us? Well, in fact the real importance of the parable lies in the one element that is variable … and that is the soil.

THE FOUR SOILS

Because the sower is the messenger, and the seed is the message itself … it’s pretty clear that the soils … all four of them … represent the minds and hearts of those who hear the message.

SOIL #1:

Sometimes we hear a message from Jesus … coming through a sermon or a teaching or a podcast or a YouTube video or a message on our mobile phone … or even, wonder above wonders, by reading our Bible … it doesn’t matter how it reaches our minds … that’s not the point here … the point is that sometimes we receive it – by reading or hearing it … but we do not … as Jesus puts it … understand it.

He says: “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it,” this is the seed sown along the path. And like the seed on the path is quickly snatched up by a bird … the message we don’t “understand” is snatched away by the enemy of our souls … Satan. We lose it, in other words.

SOIL #2:

Jesus says: The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 

Sometimes we hear a message from Jesus … and its really inspiring and quite exciting … so we even start to change our lives to live in line with the message received. But soon we run into the reality that living our lives in step with Jesus can bring difficulty upon us. And so, when that difficulty comes, we abandon the new direction our lives have taken. It’s just too costly or too difficult.

SOIL #3:

Jesus says: 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 

Sometimes we hear a message from Jesus …  but even as we are hearing it, we are wrestling with anxiety or distress about issues in the world … or concerns over money. The Greek word that is translated as “worry” is merimna. It refers to a feeling of apprehension or distress. We start to worry about events in life or financial needs … and the message from Jesus quite frankly fades into insignificance in our minds. We do not intentionally ignore Jesus, but we become preoccupied with issues in daily life, work, home, family, or even church and never respond to the message from Jesus in any real way.

SOIL #4:

I think you’ll agree that Jesus was discouraging us from being satisfied with being people whose hearts and minds and lives fit the description of those first 3 soils.

What does He want from us then? It’s pretty obvious. He wants us to work at being like the 4th soil.

He says: 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

I don’t know if you noticed that but the distinction in these 4 kinds of soils is actually in how they received the seed … and the corresponding distinction in the four hearers is how we receive the message:

  1. Number one did not understand
  2. Number two received the message with joy but never allowed that message to take root in their mind and heart.
  3. Number three heard the message but did not prioritise it.
  4. Number four heard and understood.

So … Jesus is saying that in order to be like the good soil we must take a certain approach to receiving messages from Jesus. And a very important key to knowing what that approach should be lies in the word “UNDERSTAND”.

Soil number 1 did NOT understand.

Soil number 4 DID understand.

And both 2 and 3 fell somewhere in between.

What does Jesus mean by “understand”?

Interestingly,

In English the word “understand” comes from the Old English “inter” and “stand”. To stand among or to stand between.

The Greek word Matthew used to translate the Aramaic Jesus spoke was “SUNIEMI” which literally means to put together.

Jesus is saying the good soil is the person who:

  • hears the words of the message and takes it into their mind and heart …
  • who then does the work of processing the meaning and relevance for their own circumstances;
  • in other words, they put together … the meaning of the message … with their own life … and they figure out the connections and implications; and then
  • in submission to Jesus, they allow the instruction of Jesus to be their highest priority. Higher in priority than comfort or popularity or wealth or any other concern whatsoever; and therefore
  • they choose to live out the implications of that message in their daily lives

Being the good soil is quite hard work.

It is deliberate … intentional.

It is listening to, or reading a message from Jesus with eagerness and attentiveness.

It is really concentrating on understanding what the message means … and what it implies for one’s life.

And then because one sincerely believes that Jesus is LORD of all life and LORD of one’s own life … and that He knows best what will lead to life and flourishing … it is deliberately changing one’s attitudes and behaviours to fall in line with the truth of the message received from Jesus.

And … when the going gets tough … it entails persevering in maintaining the transformed attitudes and behaviours which one has adopted out of loving obedience to Jesus and His message.

AN EXAMPLE TO ILLUSTRATE

Allow me just to illustrate with ONE example of a SEED … one message from Jesus. To keep it simple let’s take a seed Jesus Himself actually sowed.

In Matthew 5-7 Jesus was sowing a load of seeds which contained truth about how to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God … how to live the Jesus-life, in other words.

In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says: “Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

A “pathway person” goes: “Oh please … that’s so old-fashioned. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking. “Kyk is vry en vry is lekker.” If you don’t know what that means then ‘phone a friend’. They’ll explain it) So they don’t bother to even take it in … and it will have no effect on their life.

A “rocky soil person” says, “Wow that’s profound … Dude … that is like life-changing, Bru. Like I am going to totally stop looking at women as objects of my fantasies. Dude … never again.” But they don’t really process what the implications of that message are. So before long they are right back to the way they always were.

A “weedy soil person” hears the message and really believes that it is right and true and good. They give it some thought and they decide they are going to start honouring women as image-bearers of God. So that night they’re hanging out with some friends … in pre-Corona days I would have said, at a coffee shop or a local watering-hole .. now I’ll have to say on a group video call … and one of the friends starts to tell a sexist joke that is totally demeaning to women. “Listen, dude,” says the weedy soil person, “actually I don’t think this joke is heading in a healthy direction, man.” “Oh, don’t be a Geek”, the friend shoots back, “what are you, some sort of leftist freak?” …. silence … and the joke continues.

Or, it’s the boss who asks “weedy soil person” to stay on the call at the end of a Zoom meeting and … once their colleague, who happens to be a woman has left … he proceeds to make derogatory comments about her as a woman. Weedy really wants to do the right thing … but he knows that people who stand up to the boss stand no chance of future promotions … so he joins the conversation and adds his own sexist remarks.

A “good soil person” hears the message of Jesus and stops right there. They begin to process.

He considers what it means to look at a woman lustfully from a purely individual-physical point of view … and how demeaning that is to her … and how it moves her from being an image-bearer of God to being just an object to stimulate desire. He processes how dangerous that position is … and how it opens the door to SO much sin and harm. He covenants with himself and God to see women differently and to act differently.

He considers whether there is anything to learn from an interpersonal-relationships point of view … and realises how Jesus is also implying how wrong it is to reduce a woman in value and honour … and he realises this is not just about lust … this is about honour and value … and treating woman as equally valuable. He covenants with himself and with God that he will begin to treat his women family members and friends with great dignity and honour and respect.

He considers what he might learn from a spiritual point of view and hears Jesus’ message as a call to honour and value women as precious in the sight of God and of great worth just for who they are as individual human beings … equally well-positioned to be used by God in the world as any man … not to be viewed as any less! He covenants with himself and with God not to treat a woman as inferior ever again … and in fact to seek out women from whom he can learn.

Being A GOOD SOIL person is hard work … and it will only happen through our deliberate decision and deliberate effort … an effort to truly be disciples of Jesus who take His teaching and life-instruction seriously. All I can say right now is … LET US PRAY FOR THE GRACE TO BE SUCH GOOD SOIL PEOPLE.

Worship Resources 12 July ’20

A Call to Worship based on Psalm 65

(Responses in bold print. Languages used: isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Shona, Malagasy, Sesotho, English)

Dumisani uYehova! Loof die Here! Praise the Lord

Praise awaits You, O Lord

Oh You Who hears prayers

To You the praise of all humanity shall come!

Rumbidzai Jehovha! Derao ny Tompoko! Praise the Lord!

When we were overwhelmed by sins You forgave us;

In grace You have brought us near to Your courts;

We are truly blessed!

Rea u boka Morena! Loof die Here! Praise the Lord!

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Saviour

You formed the mountains by Your might.

You still the roaring seas and the turmoil of the nations

Dumisani uYehova! Rumbidzai Jehovha! Praise the Lord

Those living far away stand in awe of Your wonders.

Where morning dawns and evening fades,

You call forth songs of joy!

Lord, You are worthy of all our praise.

Amen!

ALL PRAISE TO HIM

©2017 Sovereign Grace Praise | Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) | Music and additional words Matt Merker and Bob Kauflin | Streamed by Claremont Methodist Church under CCLI Licence #576674

1.All praise to Him, the God of light

Who formed the mountains by His might

All praise to Him Who names the stars,

That sing His fame in skies afar

All praise to Him Who reigns in love,

Who guides the galaxies above

Yet bends to hear our every prayer

With sovereign power and tender care

2.All praise to Him Whose love is seen

In Christ the Son, the Servant King

Who left behind His glorious throne

To pay the ransom for His own

All praise to Him Who humbly came

To bear our sorrow, sin, and shame

Who lived to die, Who died to rise,

The all-sufficient sacrifice

3.All praise to Him, Whose pow’r imparts

The love of God within our hearts

The Spirit of all truth and peace,

The fount of joy and holiness

To Father, Son, and Spirit now

Our souls we lift, our wills we bow

To You, the Triune God, we raise

With loving hearts our song of praise

YOUR NAME

CCLI Song # 4611679 | Glenn Packiam | Paul Baloche | © 2006 Integrity Worship Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook)) | Streamed by Claremont Methodist Church under CCLI Licence #576674

1. As morning dawns and evening fades
You inspire songs of praise
That rise from earth to touch Your heart
And glorify Your Name

Your Name is a strong and mighty tower
Your Name is a shelter like no other
Your Name let the nations sing it louder
‘Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your Name

2. Jesus in Your Name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord give us strength to live for You
And glorify Your Name

Your Name is a strong and mighty tower
Your Name is a shelter like no other
Your Name let the nations sing it louder
‘Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your Name

Be Thou my Vision  

Irish Hymn from ca.700AD; Translated to English Mary E. Byrne

1. Be Thou my vision O Lord of my heart

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art

Thou my best thought, by day or by night

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

2. Be Thou my wisdom, Thou my true word

I ever with Thee, and Thou with me, Lord

Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;

Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

3. Be Thou my Battle-Shield, Sword for the fight

Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight

Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:

Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

4. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise

Thou mine inheritance now and always:

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart

High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.

5. High King of heaven, after victory won,

May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,

Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Benediction

The Lord bless you and keep you

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you; And give you His peace. Amen

And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The love of God; And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all now and forevermore. Amen.

And the joy of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you. Amen.