Sermon and Bible reading by David BallSunday 23 September 2018

Today’s Bible text is taken from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, Chapter 6, verses 10 to 17 and I am reading from the King James Bible version.

10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11) Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
 

15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Sermon / Address

Some of you might know that Vivien and I recently spent our holidays in Europe. What a wonderful and memorable experience it was. We were blessed with mainly sunny weather which became quite hot during the last fortnight. All those pullovers and macs stayed in our suitcases almost the whole time.

One of the main attractions for us is the spectacular cathedrals and churches that are so prolific in Europe. You cannot help but be overawed by the shear immensity of the Gothic Cologne Cathedral or the intricate carvings and vibrant colours in St Stephens Basilica in Budapest. There were so many to see and marvel at; more so when you realise that many of them were damaged, some extensively, during the 2nd World War. All were originally constructed virtually by hand. No modern machinery to do the heavy lifting or computers to work out stress loads. What faith and dedication to God they must have had.

The one religious site that really moved me more than any of the cathedrals, basilicas or churches was not a church at all. It was not even a building. It was the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, which is one of the three Baltic States between Poland and Russia. There are several stories as to its origin. However, in 1863 crosses in great numbers began to appear after the Russian czars banned all crosses from roadsides and cemeteries. 

During the 2nd World War it came under Nazi occupation. After the War Lithuania unwillingly became a part of the USSR. Under the Soviets religion was outlawed and in 1961 all of the crosses were bulldozed down and covered up. Notwithstanding harsh penalties new crosses began to appear and by 1975 1,200 crosses covered the hill. Once again the Soviets destroyed them. Once again new crosses began to reappear. By the time the Soviet regime withdrew from Lithuania in 1991 there were some 55,000 crosses on the hill. Today, it is estimated there are well over 100,000 crosses of all sizes there. Many are small but some stand as high as 3 metres. They are made mainly from wood but the larger ones are sometimes constructed from metal.

It demonstrates to us the power of Christianity over the might of a super power. Lithuania, with a population of less than 3 million people was taking on the might of its ruler, the USSR, with a population 100 times greater. Christianity won, atheism lost. To the Lithuanian people their belief in Christianity and demonstrating that belief to not only the Soviets but to the whole world was worth risking imprisonment, probably in Siberia, where they were likely to perish and never return to their homeland. 

Paul says:  “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

We are lucky we live in Australia where we have always had religious freedom. Unlike the Lithuanians, we take it for granted that we can turn up on Sundays and hold our divine service without any outside interference. In other parts of the world such as Syria, Egypt, China and Indonesia Christians are not so fortunate.

On a personal level I would say that many of my friends are atheists and believe there is nothing beyond the grave. They do not believe in God. But we, like the Lithuanian people, have our faith in God. We also believe in the continuity of our spiritual being after we leave the Earth plain. What a comfort it is to know that all the trials and tribulations, the worries and physical pain are not in vain but will make us better people and help us in our progression to the higher spheres.

God bless you.
 

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Sermon and Bible reading by David BallSunday 21 October 2018

My text this morning is taken from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 25 and I shall be reading verses 31 to 40 from the King James version of the Bible:

31) Jesus said:  When the Son of man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne in his glory.

32) And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34) Then shall the King say to them on his right hand. “Come you blessed of my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35) For I was hungry and you gave me meat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in.

36) Naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.”

37) Then shall the righteous answer him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you or thirsty and gave you drink?

38) When did we see you as a stranger and took you in? Or naked and clothed you?

39) Or when did we see you sick or in prison and came to you?”

40) And the King shall answer them saying: “In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers you have done it to me”.

Sermon / Address

This section of Matthew’s Chapter 25 is sometimes referred to as “The parable of the sheep and goats”. But it is not really a parable or allegorical story like the Good Samaritan or the parable of the talents. They were just stories to illustrate the points Jesus was making at the time. In this text, Jesus is telling his followers as they stood (or more likely sat) on the Mount of Olives that when he is in Heaven he will be judging every person as they enter the spirit world.

No more stories, no more parables. This is what will happen. Jesus knew he had very little time left on this Earth. The Pharisees were plotting to get rid of him. He was too much of a threat to their cosy existence. He was too frequently exposing them as hypocrites for their liking. He had to get his message across which was to love one another, meaning looking after each other and not just looking after yourself.

Look around you. There are so many people who could do with a helping hand or a sympathetic chat. I think most of us have heard of the RU OK? Campaign which, this year, was on 13 September. While it’s helpful to have a day set aside each year to remind us to look out for others who are struggling we need to remember Jesus’s words every day of the year and put them into practice every day of the year. Lend a helping hand to someone in need. A shoulder to cry on. Some cheering words to someone who is feeling depressed or sad. Visiting someone who is sick in hospital. That elderly person living alone; that fellow employee, who used to be so cheerful. What about that homeless young person sheltering in a doorway in Hay Street? Possibly a victim of domestic violence or a dysfunctional family. The list goes on.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is known as the Golden Rule and was first recorded in ancient Egypt, then ancient China and ancient Greece, which was all well before Jesus was born. So he wasn’t telling us anything new. There have always been selfish people in this world. In my text this morning Jesus says in verse 40: “In as much as you have done it to the least of my brothers you have done it to me.”

Some believe “the least of my brothers” refers to those Jesus classifies as the goats. Perhaps Jesus is hoping that, by showing kindness to a selfish person that person will change their ways, soften their heart and start helping others and not just think about themselves.

In conclusion, those that do help others (the sheep) Jesus will welcome into Heaven. Those that can’t be bothered or are too busy looking after themselves (the goats) – look out!

Which will you be; one of the sheep or one of the goats?

God bless you.

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Sermon and Bible reading by David BallSunday 26 May 2019

 

My Bible reading this morning is taken from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 18 and I shall be reading verses 23 to 35 from the King James Version of the Bible:

23) Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven like a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24) And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

25) But as he had not repaid, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26) The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.

27) Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28) But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that which you owe.

29) And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.

30) And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31) So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done.

32) Then his lord called him and said to him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you asked me:

33) Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?

34) And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him.

35) So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you, from your hearts forgive not everyone their trespasses.

Sermon / Address

I am focusing my sermon this morning on “forgiveness.” I think we all have an understanding of the meaning of the word. Those of you who were here for the Easter Sunday service would have heard me talking about Jesus forgiving those involved in having him crucified. In Luke 23, verse 34 Jesus said; “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That was unconditional forgiveness. He didn’t expect his accusers and executioners to repent or to be held to account for their deeds but he was still prepared to forgive them. On the other hand, when we recite the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are asking God’s forgiveness and in return we shall forgive others who have done or said nasty things to us. That is conditional forgiveness. In other words we are not expecting God’s forgiveness for nothing in return.

In today’s reading we have the parable of the unforgiving servant. The king’s servant owed him a very large amount of money; possibly as much as one million dollars in today’s terms. He begged the king (who represents God) to give him more time to repay the debt, which the king did. Unfortunately, that servant refused to do the same thing to another servant who owed him a much smaller amount of money and, instead, put him in jail. No forgiveness there. Needless to say, the king was most displeased with the servant he had previously forgiven and retribution followed. The moral of this parable is that we cannot expect God’s forgiveness if we are not willing to forgive others. But there is more to that parable. It is considered by some that the talents represent the accumulation of that servant’s sins over a number of years, perhaps they were quite deadly sins. The king (in other words God) was prepared to forgive all of them but, as in the Lord’s Prayer, God expects us to forgive others for even minor transgressions against us. This unforgiving servant would not and he received his just desserts. 

In Jesus’s parable of the Prodigal Son, (Luke 15); I think we are all familiar with that parable, the prodigal son was really contrite about his foolish behaviour. He was not even expecting forgiveness from his father. But his father (who represents God in this parable) could tell that the son was very sorry and remorseful for squandering his father’s wealth and readily forgave him. This is unconditional forgiveness as the father was not expecting anything in return. He was just overjoyed that his son had returned.  I don’t think he was expecting his son to re offend, particularly as the son had already squandered his portion of the inheritance.

We all say or do things to others that we later regret; after all, we are only human. When we do something which we know we should not have done, ask for God’s forgiveness, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. We need to clear our minds of the guilt we may be feeling. Otherwise that guilt builds up and can adversely affect our self-confidence, our self-worth and God does not want us to be continually racked with guilt. In verse 7 of Luke 15 Jesus said that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people. Likewise, when you forgive someone it can be quite an emotional and even uplifting experience. It helps you to deal with the resentment and even anger that you may have been feeling at the time. To summarise: don’t expect forgiveness from God for your misdeeds unless you are prepared to forgive those people who have been nasty or done nasty things to you. Forgive, forget and move on.

God bless you.

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