Matthew 9:18-26 (Don’t be a Fence Sitter)

Don’t be a Fence Sitter

While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.

Matthew 9:18-26 (NIV)

With the men’s teams coming to the end of their official seasons (with finals football still to come) and the women finishing up last weekend, pure luck (and no hint of good planning), has brought us to a cracking passage on which to wrap up the season. So far this season we have thought about how the world is broken, how that pervades into different parts of the world, and how we become entwined in this brokenness through our own sin. But we have also read in Matthew of a loving God who sent his son Jesus as King and Saviour. We have seen how it is through faith in Christ, that we acknowledge that this world sucks and is not the way it was created to be, and be brought into relationship with our God and saved to heaven after this life. Today’s passage communicates that pretty simply.
This passage is two stories in a bit of a sandwich with two important messages. Firstly, as we have already seen throughout the gospel of Matthew, both stories show Jesus incredible power to heal; his ability to not just heal a woman who was very ill, but also to miraculously raise a girl from the dead. But the second things lies right at the centre of both stories, and that is that Jesus heals both people by their faith; the faith of the father coming to Jesus, and the faith of the woman who knew that all she had to do was touch Jesus cloak.
For the last chaplains chat of the season, the message is pretty simple;

Jesus has the power to heal those who put their faith in him.

But what does this mean? It means that you become aware. It means that you look around you at the world and see a place in need of saving. You are horrified at the world’s selfishness, corruption, lying, abuse, illness, depression, injustice, inequality, greed and violence. Things that mar a beautiful, complex world and that stand in stark contrast to the love, happiness and genuine relational joy that we experience in our world. You realise that there has to be a creator who brought all of this into existence and that stands behind the complexity and morality of life. You are convinced that the Christian God who loves you and wants you to know him, must be that creator. You realise that you and others around you, contribute to the brokenness of this world and sin against God and his good purposes for the world; that in reality, none of us are perfect. You are sorry for this and you see that faith in Jesus, like the bible tells us, can save us from ourselves.

The Challenge?
Read the last paragraph 1 sentence at a time, and reflect on each sentence for 30 seconds before moving onto the next sentence
Be bold. If you have any questions about any of the christian message, ask a christian friend.
Don’t be a fence sitter. Examine the evidence available to you and make a decision about the God of the Bible.
Pray for those around you, and in your teams, who don’t know the saving God.

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 11-8-2018

Matthew 9:9-13 (Is Jesus Unnecessary?)

Is Jesus Unnecessary?

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV)

Today’s little passage is pretty straight forward from a narrative sense, but very heavy hitting no matter where you stand in terms of your viewpoints of Jesus. We see Jesus calling, befriending and eating with the tax collector Matthew. Tax collecting was a profession considered by the jews to be the scungiest, most abhorrent job; a traitor of their own people and a sinner amongst sinners. And so, somewhat understandable, the pharisees can’t believe what they are seeing when Jesus spends time with this man. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” They ask of his disciples.

Jesus replies with two sharp statements that cut the pharisees and their practices to their core, and, if we examine ourselves, might do the same for us.

I’ll start with the second which is “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus here is quoting from an old testament prophet book, Hosea. And without getting too deep into the context, Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, leaders of the jewish people who are arrogant and proud of their piousness and their ability to perform all the sacrifices they need and live by the law, that he isn’t actually interested in any of their sacrifices. It’s not their religious practices whereby they think they make themselves clean and pure. No, it is a broken heart seeking mercy that Jesus desires. A person that realises that actually, in this world, I cannot do enough good in order to reconcile the bad I have done, and the way I have not recognised God in my own life. Jesus is after this sort of person; a sinner who does not hide their sinfulness, not someone who claims to be righteous because of their own deeds – for no one could ever outrun their own sin.

Before this, Jesus said; “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”. Ie, I have come as a doctor in this world to heal it’s brokenness and sinfulness so that humanity can be in relationship with God again, but I can only heal those who want to be healed, who realise they need to be healed.

I think you often read these stories in the gospels about Jesus eating with and spending time with sinners, and you think, ‘wow, Jesus really was friends with everyone and all sorts’. But having thought about it a bit more, and particularly in light of this passage, it becomes clear that that really isn’t the case. Jesus does love everyone and would love to be friends with everyone, but Jesus was only friends with those who realised they needed him. That was the defining mark of their relationship, that the other person realised their own state of sinfulness, and saw Jesus the Son of God as the answer to their problem.

And so, I think this passage is very heavy hitting no matter where you stand in relation to Jesus. Jesus loves us all for who we are, despite our sin. But he is waiting for you to realise the direness of your own situation, the sinfulness and brokenness of our world in order to see that you need him.

The challenge;
If you aren’t a christian, none of this matters/Jesus doesn’t matter if you don’t think there is anything wrong with this world, if there isn’t something that needs fixing. And so I challenge you to consider whether there is something wrong with this world? Is there a brokenness that needs fixing? Are you happy with the way humanity acts? With war? With environmental issues? With the stupid everyday conflicts between people and the lack of love? With depression, inequality and the lack of value we place in others? Does the world need saving?
And if you are a christian, how often do you reflect on the fact that you need Jesus? That you are sinful. That every member of the church is sinful. And that individually and collectively, it is not our good acts as christians, our own righteousness that wins us the love of God, but the recognition of our sinfulness. In theory we all know this, but how often do you think it in the depths of your being?

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 28-7-2018

Matthew 9:1-8 (Did Jesus Really Do Miracles?)

Did Jesus Really Do Miracles?

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

Matthew 9:1-8 (NIV)

Today we are looking at just one of the retellings of Jesus’ miracles that Matthew clumps together in his gospel. To give a quick summary, a paralysed man comes to Jesus asking to be healed. Jesus sees this, but also sees this man’s greater need; to be healed of his sins so that he can be in relationship with God. Jesus therefore heals his sins. But Jesus realises that those looking on, including the Pharisees, would not believe the claim that Jesus is making by healing this man’s sins – ie if he says he has the power to heal sins, he is claiming to be God himself. The onlookers realise how big of a deal it is for Jesus’ to say he has healed his sins. And so, Jesus also heals the man’s paralysis so that those watching will see that Jesus has the power and authority to prove He is God and can heal sins.

Barney’s is currently working through a sermon series on Exodus. And at the start of the series, our minister, Mike, challenged the church to remember and think about the fact that the wondrous and incredible stories of the Old Testament, including those in Exodus, were real historical events and are actually part of our history as God’s people. This same challenge has really hit me as we look very briefly into the ‘miracles’ part of Matthew’s Gospel.

Because I think we are far to quick to change the lens with which we read about Jesus’ miracles. I think we read them as if they are more like bedtime stories, when we know, that just like the stories of the Old Testament, Jesus actually did perform these miracles as a living, breathing man around 2000 years ago. In contrast, I think we as christians treat Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins with too much normalcy, too much mundaneness and same-old same-old. Maybe our lack of Jewish heritage, experience of the Old Covenant and anticipation of a conquering King means that we are less amazed by Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God with the power to forgive sins and would find it more miraculous if Jesus were to heal a paralysed man in front of us.

I think we are different to the people who witnessed this miracle. Whereas they needed to see the paralysed man walk so that they could believe that Jesus could more miraculously forgive sins, we become complacent about the fact that the Son of God wants to be in a relationship with us and heal our sins, and instead would love to see ‘miracles’ performed for us. This is a dangerous view to have and we need to continue to remind each other of just how incredible it is that Jesus came to Earth, fully God and fully man, in order that He might heal all of our sins eternally and place us into a relationship with God. That is truly miraculous.

The challenge;
Could the miracles of the bible actually have been performed? Why or why not?
Do you think that you see the healing of sins as even more miraculous?

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 14-7-2018

Matthew 7:24-27 (A Genuine Quicksand Conundrum)

A Genuine Quicksand Conundrum

“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.”

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but as a younger christian, this passage always spoke to me safety and security, that if I was a christian, I was one of the one building on the rock and therefore I was sweet. But after doing a bit of reading of Carson, it quickly became clear to me that this passage actually wants to challenge that safety and security.

See, this passage comes at the end of a section starting at 7:13, which talks about falsity in people’s relationships with Christ. We about false prophets, about false disciples, and then we come to this passage, in the same thematic bracket, before moving on to recounting a whole heap of Jesus’ miracles.

So what is this passage saying? Well, it is describing the choices and actions of christians; the ‘putting into practice’ of Jesus’ words. For a christian who hears Jesus words, forms a genuine relationship with him, and responds in his actions, there is great comfort knowing that you are building your house on the rock. This passage, and the ones before it, use analogies to show that if a person has a true relationship with Christ, their actions, thoughts, decisions – their life and it’s practices, will be influenced, driven by and reflect Christ. However, this passage calls us to examine ourselves; to examine not just what we profess, but whether it is based on a true relationship with Jesus. And if we find that this is not the case, we are told that we are building our houses on sand, only to be torn down by the rain.

So then, what are we to do? We are to reflect on the nature of our relationship with Jesus. Are you a christian that has been going to church for a while, but hasn’t really taken your faith on as the guiding light in your life yet? Are you a family-based christian, than attends church on easter and Christmas because that’s what the rest of the family does? Do you think there could be some merit to this whole christianity thing and you are intrigued but have never looked into it? Are you a keeno who sits at the front of church every week?

No matter where you are, we all have work we can be doing on our relationship with Christ, to not become lazy, complacent or put off our relationship with Christ. And we work on this relationship knowing with absolute confidence that if we ‘draw near to God, he will draw near to you’ (James 4:8)

The Challenge?
If you were completely honest with yourself, what are the top 3 things that inform your thoughts, decisions and actions in life?

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 30-6-2018

Matthew 6:19-21

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

Today we come across some pretty famous verses in the bible, and I think some of the most challenging to our western world. And today’s devotion is short, because the passage gets right to the heart of the issue, that then requires you the reader to do the heavy lifting in your head; to do some serious reflective reading.

By way of brief explanation, this passage compares storing treasures on earth with treasures in heaven. In talking about treasures on earth, Matthew is talking about wealth; the treasures we amass whilst living on this planet. And to understand what Matthew means by heavenly treasures, we need to remember that this passage comes after the Lord’s prayer where we pray for God’s kingdom to come, His will be done, for Him to sustain us and for our sins to be forgiven. In other words, the thematic context that ‘heavenly riches’ exists in, reveals to us that it is talking about working towards the Kingdom. Praising God, doing God’s will, relying on him, humbling ourselves and our sinfulness, and looking to bring others to know him.

The passage gives us two reasons not to store up earthly treasures but instead to store up heavenly treasures. Firstly, earthy treasures are temporary, they fade, and they are fragile. Why would you bother putting time and energy into storing them up? They are meaningless and fickle. Secondly, if you are a christian with an eternal outlook on life, then it’s warning you that storing up treasure on earth, invests your heart here on earth, and not in heaven. Quite often we hear people talk about ‘false dichotomies’. But I think what the bible is doing here today, is presenting a true dichotomy. Your heart cannot both be attached to earthly treasure and heavenly treasure.

The Challenge;
So, this leaves us with a few things to ponder.
Where does your heart lie? What sort of things does your wandering mind go to when you’ve nothing else to think about?
Do you think there is something else after this life?
Why do you love money?

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 23-6-2018

Matthew 6:9-13

“This, then, is how you should pray: 
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Today we’re looking at the Lord’s prayer. It’s a prayer Jesus taught in order to show those listening how they should pray. We’re getting close to the midpoint of the season, and it seems appropriate that we reflect on the theme behind this prayer asa way of reflecting on what we have talked about so far throughout the season.

Jesus uses this prayer as a direct comparison to the way ‘the hypocrites’ as he calls them, pray loudly in the synagogues and on the street corners as a way of being recognised for their ‘holiness’ and piety. Instead, Jesus says we should pray the prayer above after going into our rooms and closing the door. Why is this different and why does it matter? Whereas the hypocrites are more interested in their own reputation and self importance, the Lord’s prayer recognises God as our perfect Father, King, Judge and Deliverer; the prayer is more about him than it is about us.

There is heaps, absolutely tons that can be said about the Lord’s prayer, but I think we can very quickly see the evidence of this attitude in the gross structure of the opening of this prayer.

We start by acknowledging God as our loving Father (more like ‘our Dad’ in the original Greek) who is heavenly, powerful, and so much greater than us. Jesus then moves on to say hallowed, or holy, be your name, which I think contains two ideas. Number 1, by virtue of who God is, his name is Holy. It Is the definition of it. But I also think, number 2, that it contains a self imperative idea. Ie, we want to hallow and continuing praising your name as Holy. In both senses, God is Holy. Jesus then moves on to asking for God’s kingdom to come and will be done. And I think this is where there is a real challenge for christians. Inviting God’s kingdom to come will be done, both means looking forward to the day when Jesus shall return and we will dwell with God in his kingdom. However, as is classically the case in the New Testament, it’s a bit of a now and not yet deal. We are also asking for God’ will to be done right now, here. And how does God achieve his will and the bringing of his kingdom now? Through us. We are asking God to align our will to his, and to help us as we go about trying to achieve it.

So why does Jesus give us a prayer that has such a clear structure to the start of it? Because we acknowledge who God is and that we should want his will to be done and not our own. What does his will and the coming of his kingdom look like? Well, the teaching of Jesus in the gospels; the sort of stuff we have been talking about as the Flames so far this season. Acknowledging who God is and the ownership he has on our lives. Talking about the love that God has for us and has shown us that through his son. By recognising Jesus for who he is; King, Messiah, Lord, God’s beloved son. By doing ministry to those around us. By working hard to remain salt of the earth and a light shining on a hill to point to Him. By loving our enemies that they might see God’s love for them in our actions. By being generous in our forgiveness as He is generous to us.

The Lord’s prayer gives us a really good chance to reflect not only on the attitudes in our prayer life, but the constant battle in our lives between achieving our own will – which no doubt always leads to self promotion – and achieving God’s will.

The Challenge?
Honestly, how are you going with working towards God’s will in your life? Not just in the big things, but in the everyday small things as well? Do you take the same attitude to the purpose of your life as Christ does in this prayer?
If you don’t believe in God, what is the motivation that drives your life, that gives it direction and shapes your actions?

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 16-6-2018

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Sometimes we come across passages, like this one today, that really do speak for themselves and need little explaining. However, I think the danger that comes with this is that often, because we understand the passage, we don’t allow the weight of it to settle on our hearts and minds.

Jesus, still in the sermon on the mount, is very clearly here telling us to ‘love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us…’. Who are our enemies? Who are your enemies? Who persecutes you? Who has really gotten on your nerve or insulted you or hurt you? Who do you think, is not deserving of your love? I’m not talking about your friend who has offended you recently; that’s forgiveness. I’m talking about that person that get’s to you. That you are set against. Who is that for you? Jesus is telling you to love them.

Why? So that ‘you may be the children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ Why are we called to love our enemies? Because we are to be like our Father in heaven. God loves all mankind; those who recognise him as their Father and yet still sin everyday. But God also loves those reject him. Who refuse to acknowledge him. Who consider God their enemy. And would love nothing more than to have nothing to do with him. Here we are given images of warmth and sustenance in the sun and rain, but what we are really being told is that God cares for all people; all of his creation.

What will this all result in? It will result in christians being distinct in this world. Because really, in our world, who loves their enemies? Why would people love their enemies? And how many people actually do? Our world encourages the identification of an enemy – often someone lesser than your self in some regard (be it morally, aesthetically, whatever) – in order to give you an obstacle to rise above. Whilst at the same time, telling us to do the very easy thing of loving those who love us; our neighbours. Jesus calls christians to be distinct, not just to love our neighbours, because even the morally corrupt tax collectors of Jesus’ day were loving their neighbours. Jesus expects us to work hard at doings this; ‘be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

And finally, why does Jesus preach on this? Jesus is commanding us to love our enemies because God does, and that by doing this in our world, we might stand out, be distinct, and point people to the love our Father has for us.

The challenge;
Do you have enemies?
How hard do you work at loving all people?
What is your love motivated by?
Do you love all the opponents you come up against on the soccer pitch?

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 2-6-2018

Matthew 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

We continue on this week with Jesus’ sermon on the mount, but we’ve skipped on a couple of sections from last week’s. And I think this week, the passage could be so applicable to the Flames, and lots of other situations in life, that we are at danger of reading it for its surface-level value, and not bothering to delve any deeper and ask the bigger questions.

See on the surface, this passage is pretty straightforward. The parts that we have skipped since last week (on murder, adultery, divorce, oaths), all have a thematic link with today’s passage; and that is that Jesus has come to fulfil the Law. Jesus talks about this in 5:17-20 where he says that “I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them”. By the Law, Jesus is referring to the set of commands and instructions for living that God gave to the Israelites in the Old Testament, so that all of the nations around Israel could see that they lived differently; that there was something special about them – they were God’s chosen people. All of these thematically tied passages start with Jesus saying this phrase “you have heard that it was said…” and afterwards he would quote a piece of Old Testament Law. And so in today’s passage, Jesus quotes Old Testament law form Exodus 21:24 that says ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ This is part of a command given to the Israelites to ensure that people who had been wronged received justice and those who wronged received just punishment; no more and no less for either party. And yet Jesus seems to be disagreeing with this? Why?

Well I think this is where it is helpful to know that this has the underlying theme of Jesus fulfilling the Law, because what Jesus is saying here is exactly what Jesus is going to do in dying for us on the cross. Jesus is going to show us what it looks like to be continually rejected, and yet still love people. He is going to model what this looks like when he is driven out of towns, or scorned or crucified, and yet still looks to enter into a relationship with his perpetrators. Jesus does this with us, whether christian or non christian, when we continually decide in our every day lives that despite seeing that this world is broken, and that Jesus might be the solution, we decide that we do not want to know him or acknowledge him; that we know best. When we have rejected Jesus in our lives, he has turned the other cheek. When we have asked of Jesus, he hasn’t just given his shirt to us or walked with us one mile, he has given us his coat, gone 2 miles, and died on the cross as his ultimate, sacrificial gift. And why? Because he looks past what people have done to him, what we are doing to him, and sees individuals who are needing of God’s love which he can show to them.

Flames, that’s why we need to keep turning the other cheek on the football field. That’s why we need to be sacrificial in the love we show to people – not just going one mile, but two miles. That’s why we need to be generous in our forgiveness, not just handing over our shirt to someone doing us wrong, but our coat as well. Because we are charged to show God’s love to people in our actions, not seeking immediate justice for ourselves – eye for eye, but instead taking the opportunity to be distinct and show God’s love. We have these opportunities today during the game, with our team mates, with our friends, our housemates, our church, our colleagues, our family, with the guy who pushes in in traffic, with the sassy shop attendee, with random that causes you some inconvenience, with everyone. Because everyone needs God’s love, and Jesus is calling us to see that need first, and not our own needs for justice.

The challenge?
How do you react when someone annoys, angers, embarrasses, hurts or inconveniences you?

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 26-5-2018

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

Last week I mentioned that we were going to be heading into Jesus’ great sermon; the sermon on the mount. In it, we are going to get lots of Jesus telling us pretty straightforward, “this is how you should be living, and this is why”. And it’s going to be great for the flames. We will skip around a bit and pick up on the highlights, but it seemed we couldn’t get a better start than the passage today.

Flamers; Jesus says you are the salt of the earth. What does that mean? Well often two things are attributed to what it means ‘to be salt’. People either talk about salt being used as a spice; a taste element, or as a preservative. I don’t think we can know which one was intended, but I think both are helpful and work together. Used as a spice, salt adds it’s flavour to the food and has a distinct character. You can recognise the taste of salt. Taste helps shape the meal it is added to. If we are called to be salt, and therefore to have a distinct taste, what is that flavour supposed to be? Well that’s where the preservative can be helpful I think. Salt was used to cure and preserve food at the time of Jesus’ ministry. We likewise, I think, as christians are called to ‘preserve’ God’s work in the world; his love to us in Jesus’ ministry and death on the cross. We are to read and meditate on God’s word, in order that our thoughts and actions might remind people of God’s grace grace to us, point them towards it and give glory to him because of us. We are to preserve the ministry of Christ; to keep it going. To be God’s representatives of him in this world.

The other thing to say about salt, is that it can’t help but be salty. And if it loses its salt, it’s not really salt – it is useless. This is kind of the idea we are presented with when we are told to be the light of the world. If a light is covered up, it has no point to its existence. It’s one job is to give light so that people can see; that’s why it’s called a light. Flamers; Jesus calls you to be the light of the world and to let your light shine before others. What about us shines? Our good deeds. What do they illuminate? The glory of our Father in heaven. These deeds I think can be pretty helpfully summarised by the second command that Jesus gives later on in Matthew; “Love your neighbour as yourselves”. We will explore this command and why it is light to the world next week. But for now, what do we take away? Flames 101 stuff. We are to love our team mates and the people we are playing against. In these relationships, the brief ones on the field, the day to day ones with each other, we are to show “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

The challenges?
– Are you salt of the earth to the people you interact with? Not even necessarily the big interactions; the traffic rage, the local barista or the painful opposition striker.
Do you think the Flames do this individually and as a club? What do you think are the genuine reasons behind it?
Are the Flames different in the way this passage talks about?

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 19-5-2018

Matthew 4:23-25 (How Do You Do Ministry?)

How Do You Do Ministry?

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”

Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV)

Last week we started Matthew by looking at the how the start of the book shapes us to think about Jesus for the rest of the Gospel. Matthew shows us that Jesus is King, Messiah, God, the Lord and God’s beloved son. And this week we read about the start of Jesus’ mission to the world. We see that he goes out into Galilee (an area of northern Israel) preaching, teaching, and healing; setting the stage for Jesus’ great sermon, the Sermon on Mount, which we will spend some time reading through in the coming weeks. But the question I want to ask of us today, is how do we do ministry? Does it follow the small, but clear model we get in these verses on how Jesus did ministry? What does that ministry look like?

In verse 23 we get that Jesus taught, Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, and he healed. Let’s break those down a little.

First of all, Jesus taught and proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom. What does this mean? Well I’m sure some of the christians in the club could probably have a good stab at what it means off the top of their head, but Matthew does all the work for us in chapter 4 verse 17, and includes a helpful nuance. In 4:17 he says “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”” What’s the nuance here? Well actually it’s not so nuanced. It’s that Jesus calls the Israelites, the jews he was preaching to, to repent. But why does he do that? Isn’t that really quite offensive and arrogant of Jesus? Why do they need to repent and why is this good news?
Well the Old Testament follows the narrative of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. It’s a narrative of little stories that repeat themselves over and over again; God blesses the Israelites and gives them good gifts, the Israelites rebel against the life that God would have them live in order to set them aside, to identify them as his Holy chosen people, the Israelites are punished, the Israelites repent, God forgives, God blesses, the Israelites rebel etc. etc.. And round and round we go! And this whole time, the Israelites are waiting for their promised King, a Messiah, a saviour, who will come and redeem them because they just couldn’t save themselves; they couldn’t do it on their own. These are the very things Matthew showed to us about Jesus in the passages we read last week.
So when Jesus rocks up on the scene boldly saying ‘Repent’, he is saying; ‘friends, turn away from the brokenness of your people and your sinful desires. Reject the sinfulness of your ways. And instead, look to me, the coming near of the kingdom of God. The gracious, undeserved gift of me, your saviour, here to bring you back in relationship with God and make sense of this fallen and broken world’. This is good news for the Israelites. And when we zoom out of the Israelites context, and think about what these words may be saying to us, nothing really changes. If we are to ‘proclaim the good news of the kingdom’ like Jesus did, we ought to meet people in the brokenness of our world and show them that God has rescued us from this through his son. I don’t know about you, but there are often times I look around and find life hard. I see violence, sickness, injustice, and selfishness. I see this on the world scale, I see this in my family, and I see this in myself. God created a perfect world, but it has since fallen into sin and the bible tells us that Jesus is the only one who can save us from this and make sense of it all. And how does he do this? Because he puts us back into relationship with our Creator, God, who offers us an eternal, perfect life in heaven in the new Heaven and new Earth after this life. Jesus proclaims this good news.

Jesus also performed many miracles and healed the sick. Does that mean we are called to do the same? Is that what ministry looks like for us? Miracles is a whole other question, but this is what we can say for certain. Jesus’ ministry was the beginning of the kingdom being brought to earth. When Jesus left, he left us with the Spirit to aid us in the mission left to us; to preach the gospel to all people. And therefore, part of preaching the gospel and bringing the kingdom is displaying those fruits of the Spirit that Galatians 5:22 talks about.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

So how do the we do ministry at the Flames? As a church soccer club, this is how we can be involved in God’s mission; by preaching God’s grace to a broken world openly, and by displaying the fruits of the Spirit to each other and the teams we play. As we move into the Sermon on the mount, we are going to be looking into some specifics with regards this. In general however, I think we do these things pretty well; I am always proud to play as part of a team that shows so much respect to those that we play. In doing this and being upfront about being a church team, we are displaying God’s love to them.

So the challenges for this week?
Do you think our world is broken and in need of a Saviour?
Do you really make the most of the opportunities to preach gospel into the broken world and display the fruits of the Spirit to other teams, but also, really importantly, to your teammates in the Flames? How could you be more boldly loving your team mates the way Christ loved us?

 

Joe Hockey, club chaplain

first published 12-5-2018