come and see

John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” answered Philip.


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The Road Cones of Faith

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The reading from Ephesians 6:10-18 is the one about the Armour of God. We have spoken on this reading before, but this time we were particularly inspired by a picture from Desert Island Church. Do check out their website – I particularly like some of the cartoons, but that may be my English sense of humour!

Anyway, with that bit of inspiration, some borrowed builders clothing, and some small helpers, we came up with our own version of “The Road Cones of Faith”
 
 

The Message
armor(We started with the reading from Ephesians)
Well, I don’t know about you, but after listening to that reading I have a feeling that we are all dressed incorrectly. I mean, shouldn’t we all be looking a bit like this!

But is this really about what we should wear? Well, of course not. It is about equipping ourselves for battle – not a battle with each other or other nations or countries, but a battle of the Spirit; the battle between good and evil, right and wrong – the battle between God and Satan that has been happening right from the beginning of time.

We are in a battle for our souls. Jesus came so that we have life through him. Satan lost big time when Jesus died on the cross for us, but Satan keeps on fighting and is still causing problems for God’s people. Satan is sneaky. He wants nothing more than to take us away from God, and he will use every trick that he can to do so. Like a great warrior we need to put on our armour, and because our enemy is a spirit, God has given us spiritual armour.

Now, the writer of the letter to the Ephesians, this morning’s reading, was Paul, and he was likening the equipment needed for this Spiritual battle to things that would have been familiar to the people he was writing to – that is, the armour worn by the Roman soldiers of the time.

"Road Cones of Faith" from Desert Island Church (http://www.desertislandchurch.co.uk/visual_aids_01a_road_cones_of_faith.htm)

“Road Cones of Faith” from Desert Island Church (http://www.desertislandchurch.co.uk/visual_aids_01a_road_cones_of_faith.htm)

Well I personally haven’t seen any Roman soldiers around here lately, so how about we illustrate this reading with some things that are probably a lot more familiar to we Cantabrians nowadays? That’s right Builder’s safety gear. And to make it a bit more interesting, I need a volunteer to model how it is used.

So let’s put on the builder’s Personal Protective Equipment of God!

The tool belt of truth (v14)
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist”
The tool belt is used to keep everything together that is needed on the job. When confronted with something that needs fixing our builder doesn’t have to go off to find the equipment he needs, it is right there at hand. When we keep God’s truth with us – in our hearts and minds, and living it in our daily lives – we won’t get confused about what is real and what are lies from the enemy. And the way that we know what the truth is, is by listening to, and reading and learning, God’s word.

The reflective jacket of righteousness (v14)
“with the breastplate of righteousness in place”

Righteousness means being right with God.
The reflective jacket is used so that our builder can easily be seen. If he wanted to hide he would need to take it off – I don’t know, maybe he didn’t really want to climb that scaffolding, so he was hoping his foreman wouldn’t see him.
We know that God sees us always. This is a reminder to us to guard our hearts and attitudes so that we are always right with God and not ashamed to be seen by Him.

Gospel steel toe-capped boots (v15)
“with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”

It’s much easier to walk with a good pair of shoes or boots on. Be ready to go wherever, and to whoever, God sends you, to tell the good news of God’s amazing love for us.

The road cones of faith (v16)
“take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”

Well, road cones might not be much good against flaming arrows, but there aren’t that many of those around Christchurch either. There are a lot of cars though, and the road cones will ward them off from around the areas our builder is working so he’s not going to get knocked over. Road cones don’t have a lot of material compared to cars, but the builder trusts that they will do their job and keep him safe. In the same way, faith in God is trusting in Him even when you do not understand why some bad things happen. Faith means believing in God and His plan for us, even when we cannot see where the road we are on is taking us. Satan will try to plant seeds of doubt and fear in our hearts and minds, but those seeds of doubt can never take root if we have faith in Jesus. When we choose to believe God, and not Satan’s lies, the road cones of faith block the doubts that Satan drives at us.

The hard hat of salvation (v17)
“Take the helmet of salvation”

The purpose of the hard hat is, of course to protect the head from injury. Satan tries to injure our minds, discouraging us by pointing to our failures, our sins, our unresolved problems – whatever seems negative in our lives – in order to make us lose confidence in the love and care of God.
But we have the knowledge that, by God’s Grace and the sacrifice of Jesus, we are saved. We are God’s children. Satan has already lost, and nothing can ever take you away from God. And that knowledge protects us from the blows that Satan directs against our security and assurance in Christ.

The saw of the Spirit(v17)
“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

A sword can attack or defend. A saw can be used to cut things down, but also to ready material for building. God’s Holy Word is a powerful tool against Satan. It can cut Satan’s lies to pieces. And God’s Word builds us up, and readies us for building His kingdom in this world.
The words of the Bible are our saws.

Let me finish with the last few verses of the reading, taken this time from The Message translation:

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

(Gail)


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Jonah

We just had to have a prop for the story of Jonah, so invited this whale to join us. And “thank you” to Sally for her placard – a timely reminder that God cares for all his creation.
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Telling the Story
Now although the Book of Jonah is only 4 chapters, it is still a bit long to read out in one go at a service, so we paraphrased it in a poem:

When God looked down on Nineveh town
He saw their wicked ways and He said, with a frown,
“They really must repent – I’ll send them a warning.
Jonah, my prophet, you can leave in the morning.”
Well Jonah made haste, and he left the next day,
Moving very fast – but he went the other way!
Visiting Nineveh wasn’t on his wish-list,
so he boarded a boat and headed for Tarshish.

A storm came up and the winds grew stronger –
the sailors said the boat wouldn’t last much longer.
Why did this happen – whose fault could it be?
Jonah took the blame and said “throw me in the sea.”
They threw him in the water and again set sail
But Jonah didn’t drown – he was swallowed by a whale!
Three days and nights he was in the whale’s belly,
Then was vomited out – boy! he was smelly!

This time Jonah headed in the right direction,
Taking to the Ninevites God’s message of correction
“Forty days is all you’ve got, then Nineveh is finished”
The people said “we’ll change our ways – we don’t want to perish”
The King himself heard Jonah’s words and made a proclamation
“Dress in sackcloth; eat no food; maybe that will spare this nation.
If we turn away from wicked ways God may be forgiving.”
And God, whose mercy knows no bounds, let them go on living.
(by Gail Weaver)

The Craft
IMG_1183We made this clothes peg fishes craft, and if you look closely you will see that Jonah is hiding just inside the fish’s belly. It is really simple – clothes pegs, pictures of big fish/whales, and small pictures of Jonah. Cut all the way through the fish’s body; glue the two halves to the peg – one to the top half, one to the bottom; glue Jonah on the back of the peg, but where he will be seen when the mouth is opened.

 

 

The Message
One of the books in the Old Testament part of the Bible is Jonah. The more I looked into the story of Jonah the more I giggled. He was a prophet – someone given the words of God to speak, but he didn’t want to. The hero, Jonah doesn’t want to obey God, and when he finally does he gets upset that God saved the people of Nineveh. How backwards is that! A whole book in the Bible talks about a man of God who doesn’t want to do what God has told him to – and even does the complete opposite. So I thought to myself, why would there be a whole book dedicated to someone who got stroppy with God?

God says go, Jonah says no, and heads in the opposite direction. Every step he took was a step further away from Nineveh. In the Bible it says Jonah ran away from God. Can we ever hide from our all-seeing all-knowing God? He see it all: the good, and the bad. He sees it all.

While still on the run Jonah was on a ship when a raging storm comes up, and Jonah is fast asleep. Everyone else is afraid and they wake Jonah up. He tells them in v12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” The other sailors ask God for his forgiveness before throwing Jonah overboard to what they thought would be his death, but then the raging sea grew calm. Jonah must have thought this would be end of his life too, and then he couldn’t go to Nineveh. The perfect excuse not to do God’s calling – die!

But God really wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh, and so he sends another form of transport to get him there- a whale, which swallows him whole. God can even see Jonah in the stomach of a whale that was swimming in the sea. That truly is an all-seeing God with X-ray vision. We learn there is nowhere we can hide from God. In that smelly darkness, Jonah finally prays to God saying sorry for running away, and he will go and do what he was asked to. And so it says “and the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Yuk, Yuk, Yuk. The Bible has some really amazing stories in it doesn’t it.

So Jonah goes to Nineveh telling the people “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” And then Jonah went away to watch would happen to the city. This was no great sermon, just 8 words. But the spirit of God is in those words. And all the people, including the king, turn from the wrong they were doing – just as God hoped they would. Jonah should be happy with such great results, but he isn’t. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved and despite his best efforts to do it badly, the people heard God in those words. God wanted to save them, even if Jonah didn’t want him to. God’s grace goes out to everyone, not just the ones we want it to.
Do we, like Jonah, want to keep God’s love from those we don’t like?
Do we hope for our enemies to get what’s coming to them?
For those who we don’t like and are doing well, do we hope that they might fail and lose it all?
Do we judge others harshly when we should be forgiving them?

As Jesus said in Matthew “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Give them love not hate.

Sometimes we don’t exactly rush out to answer God’s call either. Sometimes because we don’t believe it, sometimes because we don’t recognise it and, as in case of Jonah, sometimes because we do.

We have all been called by God. The call may be moving in a new direction, it may be doing something new or stop doing something old. Your journey with God is as unique as you are. And I truly believe that whatever God has called you to, God will go with you every step of your new journey. It’s your choice — you can do it God’s way or Jonah’s way.
(Vanessa)