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)


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Guidance from the Holy Spirit – a service for Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2: 1-4)

The Message for our Pentecost service this year was a very personal one. Vanessa has had some health issues recently and has at times struggled with accepting these challenges from a faith perspective. Whilst preparing for the service we looked at aspects of the Holy Spirit, and Vanessa brought us this powerful message of faith and trust. Members of the congregation took the various “parts” of the Holy Spirit and read the Bible verses.

Pentecost
Recently I have had to face I am not physically perfect and I can’t do anything about it. The term birth defect was used and it shocked me. I have an extra part in my heart which ends up short circuiting and makes my heart beat a bit quick, sometimes way too fast. A month ago I went to hospital again to get it slowed down, but what had worked in the past didn’t work this time. They finally got it sorted, but it wasn’t nice and it changed how I felt about things.

COUNSELOR:
Please help me I need a counselor to guide and help me. I don’t know what is happening to me. I am not afraid of dying because I know I will go to heaven and be with God – that’s something to look forward to really. But I don’t want to go now, not just yet. Will it be OK?
Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you. He will never leave you.(Deuteronomy 31:8)
Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

PRAYER PARTNER/INTERCESSOR:
Please help me I don’t know how to put this into words. I have questions I don’t know how to ask. I have feelings I don’t know how to express. How can I pray to God when I don’t know what to say?
God’s Spirit is right alongside you helping. If you don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does your praying for you, making prayers out of your wordless sighs and your aching groans. He knows you far better than you know yourself, and keeps you present before God. (Romans 8:26-27)

STRENGTH:
But life is always more just one thing. There are other things going on in life besides my heart. Sometimes I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend this isn’t happening or get in the car and drive until it all goes away.
You have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives you. (Philippians 4:13)
God is faithful to His Word and to His compassionate nature, and He can be trusted not to test you beyond your ability and strength, not to give you more than you can handle. He will provide you the way to handle this, to endure this patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

PEACE:
OK I’ll be honest – Sometimes I get angry and frustrated. I want to be well; I am tired of being tired. Why did I have to have this and why now? And sometimes I start to worry about what might happen. It just goes round and round getting worse and worse especially when I wake in the middle of the night.
Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Talk to him, and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your heart and your mind. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. (Philipians 4:7)

COMFORTER:
I forgot to mention I get scared. There are days when I have tears ready to fall, days when I cry. Sometimes I know why I cry, others I don’t. I get afraid.
God did not give you a spirit of fear, but one of power and of love and of calm. (2 Timothy 1:7)

GOD WITH ME:
And then I go quiet inside and feel God’s presence. Whatever this is about, or how it will turn out, it is in God’s hands, I am in God’s hands. He is a God of love
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

At Easter Jesus died on the cross, and they thought he had gone. But he rose from the dead, the greatest sacrifice on our behalf, so that we could all have a personal relationship with God. Jesus was not gone.
Jesus stayed for another 40 days. And then the last thing he said, as told in Acts 1, was to wait for the promised gift of God. He then rose in the sky to be with God in heaven. This time he was gone.

The promised gift was the Holy Spirit. We heard in the reading about its arrival: all wind and fire. I have been a Christian for many years, and had a relationship with Jesus but I didn’t know the Holy Spirit – to be honest I wasn’t sure about the wind and fire. However, over the last year I have intentionally and purposefully been asking the Spirit of God into my daily life.

The main thing it has done has changed the things I knew in my head into things I have experienced in my heart. The Holy Spirit is a counselor to help and guide you; helps you pray when you can’t; gives you strength and power; gives you a peace beyond all understanding; comforts you. And the Holy Spirit brings the gift of God’s presence into every situation you face right here, right now every day – if you ask.
(Vanessa)

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A game for Pentecost

 
Bearing in mind that one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit is wind, we decided to get the kids blowing these lovely red plastic cups around. The twist was that each cup had a part of the verse for today on it, and they then had to put it all together on a board so that it could be read out.
 
 
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Pentecost Streamers
These streamers were really quick and easy to make. I found a pack of cheap girls bangles – 16 for $3! – to use as the base, then bought flame coloured parka nylon fabric (because it wouldn’t fray) and cut it into 1cm wide strips. Fold the strips in half, thread them through the bangles and tie them off. Everyone had fun making them, and even more fun waving them around in our last song!

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Strong Foundations – The Wise and Foolish Builders

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthews 7:24-27)
 

Our craft to illustrate the Parable of the Wise and Foolish builders was quick and simple, but still very effective:
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Now although small, the rocks do have a bit of weight to them, so ordinary cardboard will not do for the backing. I managed to beg some offcuts of picture mounting board from a local picture framer and then chose to place a thin piece of card on top of that to make it more visually appealing.

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  • First, write your message on the card.
  • Next, use something sharp – I have a small embroidery stiletto- to make four holes in the cards (do the backing and front cards together). Make sure these holes are just inside the outline of the stones.
  • The next bit is the most tricky. Using two pieces of red ribbon (ours were 20cm long, but it depends on the size of your rocks), thread the two ends of one through two opposite holes, and the other through the other two holes – do not pull tight yet! Put the stone in place underneath the ribbon; we used glue dots to make sure it stayed in place. Then turn the card over, pull the ribbon tight, and tie all the ends together.
  • You may want to add more ribbon to use as a hanger for these little plaques.

 

We found some fantastic resources from other people to use this week – here are the links. And at the end of the page you will find the prayers which we wrote for the service. www.max7.org have a great video of the story:

 
and www.missionbibleclass.org have a fun version of “The Wise Man Built his House upon the Rock”

And from www.dramatix.org.nz we used their skit “House Building 101″

Prayers:
Jesus is the rock on which we build our faith and our life. Hold on to these rocks as we pray, just as we hold on to the presence of Jesus here with us and in our daily lives.
 
When I say: Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
The response is: Hear our prayer
 
And in the pauses, you are invited to add your own prayers – aloud or in your hearts.
 
Loving God, when the foundations of our world shake and crumble, we know that we can stand firm on your promises.
 
We pray for the people of Nepal. For all who have lost family, friends, and homes, and for all who are providing aid and assistance. We of all people know that the road to recovery is not easy, and the Nepalese are only just starting on that journey. We pray for them as they rebuild their lives and communities.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for all those beset by the storms of ill-health. Let Your healing Spirit work in their minds and bodies, restoring them to strength and well-being.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for the rebuilding of the Community of Faith, both here and throughout our country and the world, and for all who work to build your Church, bringing light and hope to those whose lives are built on shifting sands. Strengthen and uphold all who minister in Christ’s name.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for our own homes and families. Let your love and compassion be a guiding force in our lives and our relationships with others. Make us alive to the needs of our own community, and help us to share one another’s joys and burdens.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
When the storms of life rage, Lord keep us safe in the strength of Your Word and promises.
Amen


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Gardening Tips – The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)

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With this Parable in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to have a quiz to see whether people could match the seed to the final result. You could use any plants or foods in season, but we used an apple, a tomato, pumpkin, a bread roll (used yeast as the “seed”), and pictures of a sunflower and the Mustard tree. Make up a set of cards for each team, each card with a different seed taped to it, and see whether they are able to match the seed to the correct item. Well done to our teams who got them all correct!
 
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For something to take home we got everyone to plant some mustard & cress seeds. Sprinkle the mustard and cress seeds evenly over a double thickness of kitchen paper, damp but not wet, laid on a plate or a shallow plastic dish Make sure the paper doesn’t dry out. Now as there will really be nothing to show for this work on the day, do prepare an example at least three or four days ahead.
Of course the big advantage with this “craft” is that it can be eaten – just snip the greens off just above the paper once they reach 4cm tall.

 

The Message:
8_cell-1This is what 8 cells looks like. It is called a blastocyst and is so small you can only see it with a microscope. It is alive and could be anything. Any guesses?
Mike and I saw one once, it was Luke.
We all start out very very small, each one of us just a few cells, that became a few more, then more, then more, to become who we are today, much bigger than when we first began.
Luke needed certain things to grow into the healthy boy he is today. He has needed the right food, a safe place to live and he has also needed love and guidance.

Mustard seed
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This is a mustard seed and with the right conditions, it will grow into a large tree. It needs the right food, with the right amount of water and sunlight.

Parables are stories Jesus told that use everyday things to help us understand something spiritual. Jesus used the example of the growth of a small mustard seed into a large tree as a way to describe the kingdom of God.

When Jesus started out in his ministry, there was just him. As he walked along the shore he saw two fishermen: Peter and his brother Andrew. Jesus said to them “Come follow me” and they did. Then Jesus invited James and John, and kept adding others until there were 12 of them. Things had started to grow. Jesus and his 12 disciples travelled around, and as Jesus taught and healed people, he gained a great following. After Jesus died, it was thought that Christianity would die out as well. But Jesus, the son of God, rose from the dead, and Christianity has spread throughout the world. A small beginning of one to 12 to so many many more.

Each one of us is a part of God’s kingdom, and as we tell others about Jesus and live our lives in a way that people would want to know about Jesus, we are also growing the Kingdom of God.

Growth is not constant. Some seeds can take much longer to germinate, they might look as they are doing nothing but deep inside things are changing. This can be the same for people. Sometimes we have periods of sunshine, and at other times it can feel like it is cold and raining and it’s a bit harder to keep going. Just like a plant, we need both sunshine and rain to grow.

And we need pruning to bear more fruit. God wants us to let go of bad habits so that we can be more like him.
God has given us a free will to choose what we want to do. He wants us to want him, like he wants us. He wants us to love him, as he loves us. He wants us to know him, as he knows us. So whether you choose to grow your faith or not, is your choice. Whether you have faith and trust that God is doing the best of you in the periods of rain or pruning, when he challenges you, it’s your choice.

Like a mustard seed we need certain conditions to grow our faith. We need to be open, to love and trust God. We need to do what God asks. And as our faith grows, the kingdom of God will as well.

Vanessa


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Yes, No, Maybe – a Tale of Two Sons

Continuing our theme of Parables of Jesus, we looked at the story of the man with two sons, who asked them both to go and work in the Vineyard.

Matthew 21:28-31: Now, what do you think? There was once a man who had two sons. He went to the older one and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’‘I don’t want to,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. ‘Yes, sir,’ he answered, but he did not go. Which one of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The older one,” they answered.

IMG_0948The Craft:
For this craft you will need green paper, pens, glue, magnets, and small purple pom-poms. Cut out leaf shapes and write your chosen verse on them (make sure you do this first, as the “grapes” get in the way afterwards!). Glue on the pom-poms – 10 will give you a nice cluster shape – and then glue flat fridge magnets to the back. We wrote on them “Working in  God’s Vineyard”, but this is a really adaptable craft and can be used for many themes – for example, at the recent Community Fair where we had free craft making sessions, we did this for the Fruit of the Spirit instead.

The Message:
As a bit of background to this story let me read you from a few verses beforehand:

Matthew 21:23-27:Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Jesus had just confronted some of the highest-ranking, most powerful and influential authorities of the time, and the tension is high. He criticizes them for not recognizing that the Ministry of John the Baptizer came from heaven – that is, was authorized and given from God. And He insinuates that these religious authorities are also failing to recognize the same authority and divinely ordained ministry in Him.  He then goes on to tell the Parable of the two sons, which we have just heard.

So, is it a simple morality tale – do what you have committed to do; obey your Father; work hard? Or is it something more?

The Jewish authorities that Jesus has just confronted thought that they were doing what God had called them to do, but they got so distracted and pulled aside by nit picking adherence to the laws they had developed, that they lost sight of the true calling of God and were therefore no longer doing what He had called them to do. Worse, they were tying people up so much in made-made rules and regulations that they could not feel God’s presence in their lives for fear of offending the temple authorities who had control over their earthly fate.

We are all Children of God, so this Parable tells us that God asks all of us to work for Him. And some of us say “Yes!” with great eagerness and enthusiasm….but then the bills still need paying, there is the school run, the housework, catching up with friends, and I really need that time to relax. And so, not through malice or deliberate intent, the work of God gets sidelined for the work of me.

And some reject God’s word and call; God is nothing to do with them; they will not get pulled into all that superstition and nonsense! But God calls none-the-less. He continues to call. However far we turn away from Him, He does not turn away from us. And sometimes it is in spite of ourselves that the Light slips into our lives and everything becomes clear – and then we turn up in the vineyard and work and work for God’s purpose in this world.

If we fail to answer God’s call, it does not necessarily mean we are evil or worthless people. The religious authorities Jesus criticizes in the Gospels were not, either.

God calls us to work for him. He has called us in the past and sometimes we have done what he asked, and sometimes not. The really Good News is that He continues to call us, again and again. He does not give up on us.

What distracts us? What distracts you? Can we take some time to reflect on that.

(Gail)

The Prayers
Holy God, so many thoughts swirl in our heads. Ideas race. Worries and conflicting opinions invade our mind. Slow us down, Lord. In this moment, bring us to a sense of rest in you, to a sigh of relief, and with a deep breath we inhale your love.

Thank you God for the beautiful places we live in: Governors Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, Christchurch, and NZ. We ask that those who work at leading and taking care of these places are given the wisdom and conviction to do what is right.

We pray for those working with the rebuild of our homes and our community: including the Community Hall and our jetty, and for those working on the rebuild of our city. Please give them the insight, skills and resources to continue with this work.

We pray for the leaders of our country and those impacted by the decisions they make. We bring before you the soldiers and their families  already serving overseas and those about to depart. Give them peace and protection as they face the unknown. We pray that your love be breathed into all places of conflict.

We pray for all those who work in your church, including Russell our Vicar,  as they discern your will. For the people bringing your light to this world and its people through their ministries. We pray for individuals, waking each day and dedicating themselves to another day of faithfulness to you. Give them all a renewed sense of purpose, wisdom in their work and a new vision of your love for them.

We pray for all those who are in need of your love, your hope, your guidance and strength, your healing and your peace. We think of those we know, including ourselves, who need this right now.

Help us this week to grow in knowing  more about you, in knowing what you want us to do,  from what we should not do. Help us to be faithful and true to our word. Help us to step out and serve you in the vineyard you have placed us in.

It is in the name of Christ we pray. Amen
(Vanessa)


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A Helping Hand – Luke 10: 25-37

When we looked at the Parable of the Good Samaritan a couple of weeks ago, we thought bandaging people up might be a good game. Well, large quantities of bandages can be a bit hard to get hold of, so we settled for toilet paper. We made it into a bit of a competition too, to see which team could cover their victim patient up most thoroughly in the shortest time. I think the idea is pretty self-explanatory, so go ahead and have fun. Thanks to our “volunteers” for submitting themselves to this!

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The Prayers:
Loving God,
When we talk of our neighbours we think of those who live next door to us.

But when you talk of neighbour you extend our neighbourhood,
to the whole world,to all kinds of people –
the young and the old, the good and the bad.
All those who come from other places,
and from backgrounds different to our own.

Today as we gather here and pray for your blessing on our families and our neighbourhood of St Cuthbert’s Parish, we also think of our brothers and sisters from all over the world thinking especially of your teachings of acceptance and love as you help us to live lives free of prejudice.

Rowena

The Message:
Luke 10: 25-37
A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”
The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’”
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”
But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.
 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”
And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour toward the man attacked by the robbers?”
The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”
Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

As I was looking into different commentaries on this well known parable, I acknowledge the Bible Org for much of the following insight:

Jesus was getting a reputation of having the answers to the big questions, and sometimes he gave answers that were not expected, just as in this reading. A lawyer thought he would go up against Jesus with two questions, but it didn’t go quite as he had planned.

Jesus answers the first question with a question. To “What must I do to receive eternal life” Jesus asks him “What does the Law say?” The Jewish lawyer cleverly sums up the 10 commandments into two: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’” Jesus wanted him to see what he knew. Jesus does not condemn anyone for what they do not understand. He condemns  for what they understand, but do not do.

But the lawyer keeps on going, wanting to justify himself, and asks “Who is my neighbour.” He wasn’t asking who lived next door. He was asking, “Who do I have the responsibility to care for?” as well as “Who can I avoid caring about?” In the next verse Jesus replied  – the Greek word used here means to “take up”; Jesus had been thrown a challenge and Jesus took him up on it. And so here comes the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was very steep and it was dangerous because of the many places for robbers to hide. In fact the name for the road was the Way of Blood. So this is a very believable story for those listening. Although Jesus does not identify the man going down to Jericho, since this was a Jewish audience they more than likely imagined a Jewish person. The man is robbed,wounded and left for dead.

And now onto the Priest and the Levite. A Levite is someone from the tribe of Levi and they held special positions and responsibilities in the temples. In the culture of that time, anyone who touched a dead person would be unclean. The Priest and Levite could have used the excuse that they didn’t want to touch the man because he might have been dead, and that would have kept them from serving God in the temple. BUT, the Priest and Levite were going “down the road.” Jerusalem, where the temple was, is on a hill. They were leaving Jerusalem and going home. They had just been to worship God but did not stop to help the wounded man. They understood about love but they did not show any love. Their refusal to love their neighbour casts doubt on their love for God.  1 John 4:20 “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.”

And now to the Samaritan. Samaritans were seen as an inferior mixed race in the Jewish mind. The listeners would have thought he would pass by too, but look at his actions – he showed compassion. While the Jewish Priest and Levite passed by on the other side of the road, the Samaritan doesn’t. He moved towards the injured man. You must move toward someone in order to love, in order to build relationships. It doesn’t just happen and it isn’t convenient. The Samaritan is moving toward someone who would despise him and may not do the same if the situation were reversed.

When you feel like you want a relationship, maybe even a better or deeper relationship with someone, perhaps it is because you are waiting for something to happen. You are waiting for them to move toward you. Perhaps you need to take the initiative and move toward them. You can’t build relationships unless you do. The Samaritan stopped and took care of his wounds (oil and wine were the traveling first aid kit of the day). He put him on his own donkey and the Samaritan walked. He took the wounded man to an inn. He took the time to take care of him. In our society we are all so busy, that do we take time to reach out and help someone else. Even something small.

He also gave money to the innkeeper to take care of him, and put no limit on how much he would spend to see that the wounded man was taken care of. Remember that this is a Samaritan in enemy territory. He has just told one of his enemies (a Jewish landlord), “Here is my credit card. Do whatever you need to do to take care of him.” Talk about trust and vulnerability!!! This is also significant because both trust and vulnerability are also essential for loving others.

Which of these “proved to be a neighbour?” The obvious answer is that the Samaritan proved to be the “neighbour” to the wounded man. But the lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say the word Samaritan, so he answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”

What did the man ask? “Who is my neighbour?” He was asking who and how much do I have to do to love. Love does not ask how far do I have to go. Love asks, “What can I do?”

And Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

Vanessa

 

 


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What if God was one of us?

This is one from a while back, when we were exploring the concept of waiting for God in the form of Jesus. The video was played as part of our contemplation/prayer time.

We wait a lot in this busy world. Yet we wait less today than before. We travel at high speed to arrive at a distant destination – think of travelling on a boat to far off lands compared with the time it would take on an aeroplane, even with waiting to go through Customs.  What about letters which took days, even weeks to arrive, and which are now completed in seconds on the computer. Meals which used to take hours to cook are now done in minutes in microwave ovens.

Advent is the time of waiting and we are in Advent now which is the four Sundays before Christmas.

In the Old Testament people started to wait for their Messiah, their Saviour, from as early as Genesis 49:10.  Jacob blessed his son Judah with these words “the sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations be his.” From then until the birth of Christ was a long time – a very long time. I mean a very very long time – let’s say about 1,800 years according to some theologians – to wait for Jesus.

During Jesus’ ministry he tells his disciples that he will go but will return. In Matthew 24:3 “the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us’ they said ‘when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming?’” So since then 2000 or so years ago we have been waiting once again a long time. A very long time. I mean a very very long time for his return.

So we are going to have to wait until the time, only God knows when, when Jesus will return.

So my question is WHAT are we going to do to fill in this time until Jesus comes again. OR let me throw this out – has Jesus already returned?

God is in all of us. God is in ALL of us. So He is here, in me, in you. And when we treat another human being with love, we are showing our love to God.

In Matthew 25: 34-40 Jesus talks about those who need help with the very basics of life: food and water, shelter and clothes, and company.
There are people needing our help with these things right now in the world: overseas, in New Zealand, in Canterbury and here in Governors Bay– even in our church.

Okay so this a very large problem with so many needing these basic necessities – what are we do about it? Why can’t God just fix it? I think there are many solutions but God needs us to help. And God will use us, if we are willing, to do different things. It may be donations to organisations that help people in need overseas, it may be taking our surplus blankets and food to local organisations, it may be spending time with someone who feels they live in a prison and so on. What he might ask me to do may not be what he asks you to do. We need to ask God what we can do to help – and then we need to listen.

What is important to God, and should be important to us is that we love him and love each other.

Let me tell you what happened to me this week.  I had finished writing what you have just heard and I thought about putting those words into action. So I gathered up some things I knew would be needed and took them to the City Mission. When I pulled up in my car with my 3 year old son with me, I saw some heavily tattooed, untidy men hanging around outside. So I got Luke out, locked the car, held my handbag tightly close to my body, made no eye contact and quickly went inside to finish what I had set out to do. As we came out, Luke stopped to watch a crane working on the other side of the road. One of the men spoke “Do you like cranes?” Luke turned, looked him in the eyes and beamed “Oh yes, Cranky the Crane is my favourite.” Another man spoke “You must like Thomas the Tank Engine then.”
“I like Thomas, and I like Percy too – he’s the green one.”
And then we stood silent for a few more moments as we all watched the crane and I quietly cried. Although I took material goods, it was my 3 year old boy who showed them acceptance and love.

By helping someone else, in the way God has asked you, by showing a practical love to someone else, you are showing them God’s love as well.

So while we wait for however long it will be, let us fill in our time by doing to each other what we would do if God were one of us.

Vanessa


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Blurred Vision- John 9: 1-12

This week our service was about Jesus healing the man who had been blind from birth – the one in John 9 where Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash. We thought about how hard it can be to tell what things are when we can’t use out eyes – for example, how do you describe the colour yellow?

So our GAME was “guess the object”. We made two sets of six canvas bags and had different things in each one. Our two teams then had to work out what was in there just by touch – no cheating and pulling anything out to see what it was. We used:

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  • Sandpaper
  • Wet Wipes
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Feathers
  • Lego
  • Rice

But, of course, there are a huge variety of other tactile things you could use.

 

THE CRAFT:
For this we had cardboard glasses to be decorated. The “glasses” were already cut out, but if you have older children, or more time, you may want them to cut them out themselves. It can be a wee bit fiddly though. I have an oval hole punch which I used for the eye holes. You can download our template for these here:Glasses template

To make the glasses fit, wrap the arms around the child’s head, mark where they overlap, then cut a small, wedge-shaped slit on each arm – at the top on one arm, and the bottom on the other. When you put the glasses back on, lap the slits into each other, and the glasses will stay put.

We had glitter glue, feathers, paper stickers, foam stickers, and sticky paper to use to personalise our glasses – and don’t we all look gorgeous!
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THE MESSAGE:
(Verse 1-2) As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parent’s sin?”

Back in the time of Jesus, it was believed if someone did something wrong (especially really wrong) it would affect themselves, their children, their children’s children  – and so on. That also meant you could be affected by something wrong that your parents did, your grandparents did and so on as well. It went both ways in the family line.

I wonder if this blind man’s family looked at each other wondering what they’d done to cause his blindness. I wonder if they looked at themselves and felt it something they had done, and lived with the shame and guilt.

What a thought. I couldn’t bear the idea that something I could do would adversely affect Luke, or his children. What a lot of responsibility to bear  – what a cloud to live under if you believed that.

As I stand in front of you I have not lived a saintly life, and there was a time that I didn’t do what God would want me to. There are things I have done that were really wrong, sins I have committed that now lay at the foot of the cross, and not over my life – or my family’s.

Verse 3: Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with this man’s sins or his parent’s sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.”
God is a miracle worker. He has the power to make a blind man see – he changed this man’s life. This blind man would be able to work now, he could find himself a wife and have a family, he would no longer be reliant on begging for his daily food. His life was radically turned around. God is a miracle worker – his power can be seen in your life. He can radically turn your life around.

Sometimes we do not see what Jesus is trying to show us. Let us take a moment and ask for Jesus to reveal something to us. Open our eyes, open our minds, open our hearts, open our Spirit to receive what God would like us to see.

Vanessa

 

 


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A Wildlife Encounter – Daniel 6: 1-23

A couple of weeks ago we were looking at the story of Daniel in the Lions Den, and we had great fun playing this game, “Daniel, the Lion, and the King” from Expert Village

 

THE MESSAGE:
Daniel is one of the people I remember clearly from the Bible Stories told in my childhood. I loved hearing about how he faced certain death: once in a fiery furnace (that’s another story) and again in the lion’s den. Don’t worry he survived both times. I remember that in both stories a King made a law that you weren’t allowed to worship or pray to God, and if you did – the punishment was death.

King Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel thrown in a fiery furnace, King Darius had Daniel thrown in a lions den. And as I said earlier, God protected him both times.

And so I came to look at the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den thinking of how he stayed true to his faith and continued to pray to God even though he knew it would mean facing death. Prayer is the way we communicate with God. It is the way we form and grow our relationship with him and to Daniel prayer was more precious than life, even more important than life. “You will have to take my life before you take my prayer”? Is that something you could say? Could you dare to be a Daniel?

Earlier I said I remember clearly the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, but I don’t remember anything about King Darius. But this time I won’t forget him. King Darius was the new ruler of Babylon, and he wanted to keep a close eye on his empire. There was a lot of corruption as people in the King’s service were stealing from him.  King Darius wanted that to stop so he appointed people to help him. Daniel began to shine. He was wise, faithful, honest and had integrity. Here was a man that could really help King Darius run things, and so he decided to make Daniel in charge of everyone. That would be good news for Daniel, but bad news for everyone else. Daniel wouldn’t steal and they would have to stop stealing, or they would have to stop Daniel. They can’t find any fault in Daniel’s work so they look to find fault in Daniel. These men are cunning and get King Darius to pass a special 30 day law that can not be changed – a law stopping any form of prayer. This law was aimed directly at Daniel with both barrels loaded. But it had much wider ramifications. It not only affected Daniel, but every faithful Jew in Babylon could also have been charged, convicted, and put to death if they too continued to pray to God.

King Darius didn’t realise that it would be stopping Daniel from praying, which Daniel did 3 times a day. Daniel stayed true to his faith, and continued talking to God, continued praying as he had always done even with the very real threat of death in the lions den. So of course Daniel is caught and taken to the King.

Now I am just going to summarise verses14-20:
This was not King Darius’ idea. King Darius did not want to send Daniel to the Lions den. He worked hard all day to find some way to rescue Daniel. But the law he made had to be enforced. King Darius reluctantly takes Daniel to the lions and the last words he says to Daniel are these “May your God whom you are serving continually save you.” The stone gets rolled across, and King Darius places his own royal seal on the stone so no one could rescue Daniel. Then he walks away. That night King Darius doesn’t eat or sleep. First thing in the morning as soon there is light, he hurries down not knowing what he would find and calls out “Daniel, servant of the Living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?”

And that is what I now find very interesting about this story. Although it is called Daniel in the Lions Den, these verses are actually all about the King. Daniel and Daniel’s God sure had his attention. This makes me think about our lives  and wonder who is watching us and wondering when the Lord will show up. When He is constantly healing, working, and bringing life to us – are we paying enough attention to notice our daily blessings?  Enough for others to take notice? Are we actually recognising and praising Him for the little or large lion’s dens we face where we can show our faith in God? Is His presence in our lives making a difference in those around us?

My final note is a word that frequently and repeatedly kept popping up again and again in my message. I mean CONTINUALLY. Daniel served and prayed to God continually and others saw that. And it was through that frequent contact with God that made Daniel shine. That made others take notice: there were those who wanted him dead and then there was King Darius who wanted him to stay alive. The way others learnt about God was through Daniel’s actions and God’s action in Daniel’s life.

Just think there are people we know who may not know God, and they could be watching us to see how God affects our lives. Just imagine if we stayed in continual, regular and frequent contact with God that it becomes the most important thing in our life, more important than life. Others may want to know more about God through our actions and God’s action in our lives. I simply ask again Could you dare to be a Daniel?

Vanessa