The fact that we have four different accounts of Jesus’ life, recorded in the four gospels, is both a great blessing and a potential problem.
One of the major themes of John’s gospel, perhaps his most striking imagery, is that of light and darkness.
One thing that has really stuck me over the weeks of advent, as we’ve taken as our theme Isaiah’s words that “he shall be called the Prince of Peace” – and that, judging by the comments I’ve heard from others, has struck more than just me, is how powerful an idea, and how deeply desired, peace is.
Isaiah 7:10-16 | Matthew 1:18-25
I think it’s fair to say that it’s because of the author of Matthew’s gospel that we know so much about the writings of the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 11:1-10 | Matthew 3:1-8
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
How timely an image is this for us in New South Wales at the moment, as we watch the news of bushfires and breath the smoke blanketing the city.
And so today we begin that journey of getting ready for Christmas, the journey of advent.
Genesis 1:31 | Psalm 24:1-2 | John 3:11-17
So over these few weeks before we move into advent we’ve been exploring what it means to be part of a bigger Church – part of a Church which is more than just Roseville, more than just Uniting, more than just early twenty-first century.
I doubt that there has ever been a society in which being a tax collector was a profession which would make you automatically popular amongst your peers. Even in a stable democracy like Australia, in which we have a say in the government that spends our tax dollars, and in which, for all the genuine disagreements in our political system, there is actually broad agreement on the vast majority of our spending, most people still resent paying tax, and would choose to pay less if they had that choice.
Chapter 15 of John’s gospel begins with the image of the vine – “I am the vine,” Jesus declares, you are the branches; abide in me and I will abide in you, and then you will bear much fruit.
Here, in the second half of that saying, Jesus takes that phrase, “abide in me”, and gives it meaning. He’s used the word ‘abide’ 8 times in the first few verses of the chapter; “abide in me, abide in my love” over and again, until finally, as if in answer to the unspoken question, he tells us what he means.
If you keep my commands, you will abide in my love
Psalm 46:1-5 | Isaiah 40:28-31
When I was a kid, I lived in what I thought at the time was a small village in England, a long way away from the city. Well, it was in England, so I got that bit right, and technically it was a village, although Woodstock was big enough to have a primary school of two or three hundred children and its own high school. And that distant city was only eight miles down the road – a long walk, but easy on a bike or fifteen minutes in the car.
Right back at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel the author gives us a one sentence summary of Jesus’ preaching: “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”. When you read through Mark’s gospel there’s a sense in which the whole thing is just an exposition of those words: the time is now; the Kingdom is near; repent and believe.
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Today’s reading from Paul’s second letter to Timothy gave me the perfect excuse to indulge in one of my favourite sermon-procrastinating pastimes – searching the internet for interesting quotes.
Don’t you just love it when Jesus praises dishonest behaviour?
I particularly like the way that many Bibles, choose to spin this as the ‘parable of the shrewd manager’. Yeah, ok, the guy acted shrewdly, but I wonder what you would call a man who, afraid he was going to be sacked for squandering resources, used his final day at work to abuse his position, and rip off his boss in order to buy himself friends for the future? Shrewd? Maybe. Dishonest crook, more likely.
Don’t you just love this parable? This image of God as the Shepherd who cares about the individual sheep, who seeks out the lost, who celebrates over the return of the wanderer.
Exodus 12:1-13 | Luke 22:14-20
So welcome to an episode of “what on earth are we going to do with this story”.
A story in which we are told of God committing an act of terrorism. Systematically killing the firstborn of every family in an entire nation, in order to get the political leadership to change their direction.