Luke chapter 20 is an absolutely shocking chapter. I don’t know how much you’ve felt this as we’ve looked at it over the past few weeks – Jesus says some absolutely outrageous things! Have a look at verse 16. “When the people heard this, they said ‘May this never be!’” They couldn’t believe what they had just heard. Outrageous! You can’t say that!
From time to time I put sermons I give up here. Not because I think they are particularly good, even less that they are model sermons. I can't even guarantee that I agree with everything I said then - I am (of course) learning all the time. But someone may be interested.
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Those of us who were here last week saw how Luke wrote this chapter so that we, his readers, can be really, really wise. Luke doesn’t want us to learn from our mistakes; he wants us to go one better than that – he wants us to learn from the mistakes of others before we even make them ourselves.
Jesus told a parable about a vineyard that had tenants. The tenants thought they owned the place, and so mistreated the servants sent to collect some of the fruit, and finally they killed the owner’s son. The owner kicked them out of his vineyard, and gave the vineyard to a new set of tenants.
Last week Peter talked about the dramatic end of Luke chapter 19. Jesus is being cheered and hurrahed into Jerusalem, palm branches waving, crowds ecstatic. And all of a sudden he stops and, very publicly, he weeps. He weeps because the leaders in Jerusalem have not realised who he is, and as a result the city will be brutally demolished – down to the last stone, down to the last child. And then he goes into the temple and drives out the profiteering merchants, to foreshadow the horrendous judgment that will befall the city and its temple.
Here’s a question: What will happen at the end of time?
Will this world come to an end with a nuclear holocaust? That was the fear of many in the 1980s. Or will global warming one day make this planet uninhabitable? That is the fear of the present decade? Or will we ride out both of those, only to succumb to a meteor strike like that purported to have wiped out the dinosaurs? Or will the human race suffer none of these fates worse than death, but continue to evolve, adapt and survive forever?
When I was 15, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to walk up Mount Kenya. You can’t get to the twin highest peaks without an 11 hour rock-climb of a high grade. But there is another peak, Point Lenana, which is 700 feet lower than the top two, and that is a 2 day walk and a bit of a scramble. One thing you need on Mount Kenya, because it’s a large mountain, is a guide.
Security is something we all crave. Job security. Relationship security. Financial security.
Indeed, whole industries have grown up to look after our security. Our houses are kept secure with locks and alarms. Our computers are kept secure with antivirus software and firewalls. Our bank balances are kept secure with a dozen different kinds of insurance. We want to be secure. We want to feel secure. And, obviously, it matters that how secure we feel tallies with how secure we really are.
[Note: For some reason, when I repeated this sermon at an evening service, I was asked if I could prepare a longer version taking in some of the questions I had been asked after the original sermon. The text here is that expanded version, rather than the original version which was about 2/3 the length]
1 Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 33
What should we do when we meet together as Christians? What should our meetings look like?
If you were here last time, you will remember that Paul was saying that we should aim for prophecy in our meetings, not tongues. Why? According to verses 1-5, in church, we should do what builds up others. According to verses 6-12, in church we should be intelligible. And according to verses 13-19, in church, we should engage brain.
What should we do when we come together on a Sunday morning? What should we do in our mid-week small groups? How should we spend our time when we are gathered together?
Excellent questions. Questions that have vexed Christians for centuries. Important questions.
Last week we started to look together at 1 Corinthians chapters 13 and 14. We saw that love is more important than any spiritual gift, and that the character of love is to sacrificially seek the good of others. What we had was the conclusion that love is really very important, and that to be truly loving is no small challenge.