Sermon and Bible reading by David Ball - Sunday 25 June 2017
Today’s Bible reading is taken from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 53, verses 1 to 9.
I am using the King James version.
1. Who has believed our report? And by whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2. For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and a root out of a dry ground. He has no form nor comeliness , and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3. He is despised and rejected of men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid, as it were, our faces from him. He was despised and we esteemed him not.
4. Surely he has born our grief and carried our sorrow, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
5. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our sins. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes are we healed.
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
8. He was taken from prison and from judgement, and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the sins of my people was he stricken.
9. And he made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence; neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Sermon / Address
My sermons are almost always based on New Testament texts as they deal with Jesus’s life and teachings which are an inspiration to all Christians and help us in our daily lives. For a change, I have chosen a text from the Old Testament. But it is still about Jesus even though it was written about 500 years before his birth. That is why it is sometimes referred to as the 5th Gospel. Anyone who is familiar with Handel’s Messiah will have recognised parts of it.
The book of Isaiah contains 66 chapters, purportedly written by the 8th century BC prophet. Isaiah probably wrote most of the first 39 chapters. But as the book spans 2 centuries, today’s text could not have been written by Isaiah himself. No one knows who did write it and that is a pity because, as you have heard, my text contains some very important and revealing prophesies about the coming of the Messiah and the pain and suffering that Jesus would have to endure hundreds of years later. It is almost uncanny in its accuracy and detail, forecasting Jesus’s persecution, trial, flogging and execution.
As in the New Testament, it is telling us that Jesus will suffer for our sins. It is a sad and poignant passage. Let’s face it, there is nothing uplifting about transgressing; quite the reverse. When we do something that we know we shouldn’t, guilt often follows. I wish I hadn’t done that. Now I’ve got to live with it. I shudder when I think about it. I lie awake at night just thinking about it. We have all experienced those thoughts. Isaiah is saying that God will lay on Jesus the iniquity of us all. “And with his stripes are we healed.” In other words Jesus will be there to help us cope with the guilt complex that frequently follows when we transgress. The Psalmist said; “As far as the east is from the west so far has God removed our transgressions from us”. Psalm 103 v12. In the Lord’s Prayer, which we have earlier said together, we ask God to forgive our trespasses.
Jesus doesn’t want us to go around with a guilty conscience for the rest of our lives. He doesn’t want us to have sleepless nights and nightmares, as this can frequently lead to depression or worse. He knows it is not easy for us to always stick to the straight and narrow path. Sometimes we do stray. But he does want us to learn from our sins, our mistakes, so that we can become better people. With his help you are less likely to make the same mistakes, transgressions next time. This is why Jesus is there to forgive you and to support you so you don’t have to deal with it alone. To err is human, to forgive is divine. Next time you are tempted to do something or say something that you know you shouldn’t, ask Jesus to help you to stick to that straight and narrow path.
God bless you.
Sermon and Bible reading by David Ball - Sunday 28 May 2017
Today’s Bible reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 1, verses 2 – 5 and 8 – 9 from the King James version:
V2) Until the day in which Jesus was taken up; after that he, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen:
V3) To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them 40 days and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God:
V4) And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the Father which you have heard from me.
V5) For John truly baptised with water; but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.
V8) You shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you. And you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the uttermost part of the Earth.
V9) And when he had spoken these things, while they looked on, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Sermon / Address
Last Thursday 25th was Ascension Day; the day in which the Apostles saw Jesus for the last time. It marks the 40th day after his resurrection on that first Easter Sunday and is one of the more important events in the Christian church’s calendar. Ascension Day is a public holiday in a number of countries, mainly in Europe. In others, including Australia, it has been moved to the following Sunday (in other words today), probably because in the 21st century few people have the time or inclination to go to church on a Thursday, even for such an important event.
There is another important event mentioned in the text. Jesus tells his Apostles that they shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days hence. Christians celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles 50 days after Easter Sunday (next Sunday), calling it Pentecost – literally 50th. In the UK it is called Whitsunday. It is described in more detail in the 2nd chapter of Acts. For most Christians, the Holy Spirit is the 3rd divinity in the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ his son and the Holy Spirit.
No doubt the Apostles were very saddened to see Jesus disappear from their sight for the last time on that first Ascension Day. But, of course he had not disappeared, never to be heard of again; far from it. The Apostles continued Jesus’s ministry, spreading his message far and wide. With the help of Paul, who did more than anyone to bring Christianity to the Mediterranean lands, eventually Jesus’s message reached every continent.
Ever since that day 2,000 years ago, Christ has been accessible to, not just the Apostles, but to everyone who believes in him. He is here today for all who call on him. He is here for you. He is here for me. In Matthew 18 v20 Jesus said; ”For where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them”. That is what makes our religion, our faith as Christian Spiritualists, so reassuring, so supportive. We are not here just to celebrate the life of the most wonderful person who ever walked this Earth; we are able to call on him for his support, his guidance, his healing. That is such a comfort in our time of need.
Our final hymn is: “You’ll never walk alone.” It was written in 1945 by Richard Rogers for the musical “Carousel” in which the male lead dies and then comes back in spirit to comfort his weeping daughter. This powerful and moving song has helped many people to realise that they are not alone even in their darkest hour. Remember Jesus’s final words as recorded in Matthew 28 v20, which is the very last verse in his gospel, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
God bless you.
Sermon and Bible reading by David Ball - Sunday 29 January 2017
Today’s Bible reading is taken from the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, verses 51 - 59 from the King James version:
V51) Jesus said to the Jews; “Verily, I say to you, if a man keeps my sayings, he shall never see death.”
V52) Then said the Jews to him; “Now we know that you have a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and you say; “If a man keeps my sayings, he shall never taste of death.”
V53) “Are you greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do you make yourself to be?”
V54) Jesus answered; “If I honour myself my honour is nothing. It is my Father that honours me, of whom you say that he is your God.”
V55) “Yet you do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say, I know him not I should be a liar like you. But I do know him and keep his sayings”.
V56) “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad”.
V57) Then said the Jews to him; “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
V58) Jesus said to them; “Verily, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
V59) Then they took up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
Sermon / Address
Some of you might remember my last sermon which was about the woman who was supposedly caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees and how Jesus dealt with it. Today’s text is taken from the same chapter in John’s gospel but it deals with a completely different subject. In fact, it couldn’t be more different.
Here Jesus is telling the Jews that if they stick to his teachings they will never see death. Of course, the Jews he was talking to couldn’t understand what he was getting at. As far as they were concerned Abraham and the prophets were all dead. So what was Jesus talking about? But we in this Church with our spiritual beliefs, know exactly what Jesus meant. For us there is no death, as he said. We just leave the Earth plain and enter the spirit world. Our lives don’t finish in a coffin 2 metres under the ground, or in a fiery furnace with our ashes sitting on someone’s mantelpiece. Your body may well end up that way but you will be very much alive in spirit.
As I think most of you know we, as Christian spiritualists, subscribe to 7 principles, one of which is the continuous existence of the human soul. Another is the communion of spirits. In today’s text Jesus gives us an excellent example when he said; “Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to see my day. And he saw it and was glad.” In other words Jesus is saying Abraham is still very much alive, in spirit, of course. He further strengthens the case for continuous existence when he said; “Before Abraham was, I am.” As far as I can ascertain, Abraham lived on Earth around 2,000 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Yet Jesus is saying he was alive before Abraham which, of course, was in spirit. Moreover, Jesus is saying Abraham rejoiced to see my day. In other words, Abraham was still very much alive in spirit in Jesus’s time and I am sure he is today, as is Jesus.
This was all too much for the Jews at that time and their only answer was to try and stone Jesus. What a shame, because for me, and I hope for you, it gives great comfort to know that our physical existence is not all there is to life; far from it. There is so much more to life. Jesus showed us the way. After his crucifixion came his resurrection; further demonstrating that there is life after physical death. Our life on Earth is just one chapter in many. For most of us there have been many chapters that we have already lived through, both on Earth and in spirit as we gain experience and knowledge to enable us to progress to the higher spheres.
God bless you.