In 1902, the author J M Barrie wrote a book called the Little White Bird. It was not a children’s book and in it, he introduced the world to the character of Peter Pan, who escaped from being human as a little baby, and lived a fun life with fairies, and never grew up. Peter Pan did grow up a bit. A play in 1904, another book in 1911, and we have the older boy that has captured the imagination of so many people. We now have endless films, musicals, and spin-off TV series, all starring the charming character of the boy who wouldn’t grow up.
Kemsing with Woodlands
The Antiques Roadshow has been running for 40 years. I’m not an avid follower, but you’re probably familiar with the format. They travel around different British towns with antiques experts, so members of the public can bring things to have valued.
There are inevitable disappointments. Something the owner thought was priceless turned out to be worthless. But then there’s the reverse, as someone’s jaw drops when something is worth vastly more than they’d dreamt.
Old fashioned ideas about God, that turn out to be very important.
Two weeks ago, we looked at guilt. Ezra 9 showed us what God is like, and what we are like. Guilt may be out of fashion, but it turns out it’s very important.
Today, we look at repentance. Also out of fashion. Also very important. And, as we’ll see, extremely costly.
Ezra chapter 10 is a shocking chapter. Did you feel an element of shock as it was read out?
Guilt gets a bad press today.
Many secular counsellors would say it’s unhealthy to feel guilty. We need to let go of our sense of guilt. And if someone is trying to process issues and problems in their life, the last thing they need is to be made to feel guilty for things they’ve done wrong.
Which is more important in the life of the church: Truth, or unity?
It’s a trick question, of course, but it’s one we often ask all the same.
Some people say that truth is all-important. What matters is that we hold onto the truth. If that means relationships get strained with those who don’t agree with us, then that’s a price worth paying.
Others say that unity is what matters. Jesus prayed that his church should be one. If a church falls out with itself or with others because of its stand for truth, then that’s a total tragedy and a defeat.
If you’re trying to achieve something, there are many obstacles.
It might be a business, a community project, a building, a sports team.
Including being discouraged at the small scale, and little progress.
Including complacency from those you look to for support.
Including opposition from those who don’t want to see your project succeed.
The same applies if what you’re building is the kingdom of God.
I take it we all find it frustrating when people just tick the boxes of whatever it is they’re doing. Pay lip service, but their heart is not in it.
Someone at work. They turn up, they do the hours, but the moment their not being observed they’re at half pace.
Memories of school PE. The frustration of half a rugby team who want to win this thing, playing with team mates who have to be there.
Box-ticking lip-service is especially ugly when it comes to Christians.
If you were here two weeks ago when we last looked at the book of Ezra, we ended on a slightly scary and somewhat sombre note. As we seek to live for Jesus Christ and to build his kingdom, there is real opposition. We will be opposed. And sometimes that opposition will succeed. We looked together at the tactics that the devil will use to oppose us. We concluded that we must not write this off as scaremongering. They had to stop rebuilding the temple for 16 years, which was a very long time.
If someone is going to oppose you, you want to know how they think. How they will act. Be one step ahead of them.
Sports professionals spend hours watching replays of the teams they are due to face. How does that striker line up for a goal? How does that tennis player respond if you hit a ball into that corner?
Let me ask you two questions.
Number 1: What makes you celebrate? What absolutely thrills you, has your phoning your mum or your best friend with excitement, is cause for a celebratory drink or meal, puts a smile on your face for a week?
I’d reckon the safe arrival of a healthy baby in a family is one of them. New job. The all clear at the hospital. She said “yes”. What else?