Cold enough for you?


Have you picked up on the fact that winter isn’t my favourite season?  As a matter of fact winter doesn’t even rank in the list of my top favourite seasons. (which just happen to be summer, summer, summer and autumn)  But it’s not just the weather, it’s having to listen to everyone gripe about the weather.  The other day someone commented on how cold it was and I replied, “Yeah it kind of feels like. . . the season between Autumn and Spring.”
When we moved to Australia I thought that I’d heard the last of negative weather comments, after all it was said that “In Queensland every day is perfect and the next one is better!”  But alas it was not to be.  People felt the same about the weather down under.  It was either too hot or too cold. (Everything is relative, too hot down there was 41 and too cold was 14)  And I wonder if our preoccupation with the weather is actually our attitude toward life, where we are never satisfied with what we have?
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11 (NKJV)  . . . for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  Maybe we could add to that and in whatever province and whatever season!  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Learning From Martha

For ten years starting in 1968 Christian Life Magazine
published a list compiled by Elmer Towns, who was a Sunday School Guru, listing
the top 100 Sunday Schools in America.   
In 1974 the largest Sunday School in the US and assumedly in
the world was First Baptist Church in Hammond Indiana with an average weekly
attendance of 11,303, in Sunday School.  They
had 165 buses operating, reported 8,040 baptisms that year and had an income of
almost 3 million dollars.
Sunday school conferences were the norm for Pastors who
wanted to see their churches grow and churches that didn’t offer Sunday School
programs were considered to be weak and ineffectual and maybe even not
Christian…
But twenty years later that was changing.  In 1994 when Cornerstone was in the planning
stages we made the conscious decision to not have Sunday School.   Part of it was practical, we didn’t have any
Sunday School teachers and we would have had to pony up more cash to rent our
facilities for a longer period of time. 
But it went beyond the practical. 
In the two previous churches I had pastored we had offered Sunday School
and I had watched the commitment of both students and teachers waning.  
It takes a lot of commitment to make Sunday School happen,
teachers who have to commit to prepare lessons every week, often for 52 weeks a
year, year after year.  Parents who had
to commit to bring their kids to Sunday School. 
It was a constant struggle to recruit teachers and students and keep
them motivated. 
And so twenty years ago when we launched it was without a
Sunday School program, instead we were committed to providing a high quality
children’s program.  And for the first 14
years that was run by Angela and for the last six years Pastor Marilyn taken
the lead and it has worked.
And there are folks who still call our programs Sunday
School, but they really aren’t.
And in churches everywhere there were staples with the
Sunday School programs.  There was the
opening session where they played games that helped them memorize scripture and
sang songs to help them learn bible stories. 
And then the kids went to their classrooms where they would learn the
stories from the bible, often from Flannel graphs.  And all the kids and often the adults would
be learning the same things each week just presented at a level appropriate for
their age level.
Flannel Graph Story
of Mary and Martha.
She was a little steamed, actually she was a lot ticked and
who could blame her.  Sure she had been
the one who had invited the company over, but it wasn’t just her home, I mean
her sister could do a little bit to help out. 
Instead she just sat there staring up at their guest as if it was the
first time she’d ever seen the man, when the truth was they had practically
grown up together.  And so she walked a
little louder, actually it was pretty close to stomping, and banged the pots a
little more than necessary, actually a lot more than necessary and she sighed a
lot and not little sighs either, these we full blown asthmatic sighs that were
not to be missed.  And yet they were
missed, their guest continued to teach and her sister sat mesmerized, hanging
on every word that he said.  And Martha
was a little steamed, actually she was a lot ticked and who could blame her.
We read the story earlier in the service.  Mary and Martha were the sisters of Jesus’
good friend Lazarus and it would appear from different gospel accounts that
Jesus spent a fair amount of time at their home.  On this specific occasion Jesus was
travelling past on one of his journeys and Martha invited him to come and stay
with her family.  When Jesus arrived he
sat down and began to speak, we don’t know if he was teaching, or if he was
telling them of his journey or just shooting the breeze.  Whatever it was Mary was soon entranced with
his words and sat at his feet hanging on to every word.  If you ever saw the CBS mini-series “Jesus” you
might remember they actually portrayed Mary as having a crush on Jesus, and it
could have happened.  He was a likeable
type of guy who obviously was well respected, had a trade and came from a good
family.  A girl could do worse than
Jesus. 
But the story really isn’t about Mary at all; it’s about her
sister, Martha.  It had been Martha who
had invited Jesus into her home and she was bound and determined that everything
would be perfect for Jesus.  And so she
began to fuss around, cleaning up and getting supper ready.  At first it wasn’t bad but the longer she
worked the more she began to resent the fact that her sister was just sitting
there, doing nothing.  And finally she
couldn’t stand it any longer, in Australia they would say that she spit the
dummy or got her knickers in a knot, and she blurted out, “excuse me, doesn’t
anybody think this might be more than a little unfair, me playing Cinderella,
while her highness sits on her duff and does nothing.”  Or something to that effect.
And Jesus responded by saying “Martha, don’t sweat the
little stuff, and this is all little stuff. 
Right now Mary has discovered what is really important, and I’m not
going to put a damper on that.”
I wonder what Martha’s response was?  It’s not recorded but somehow I don’t think
she said “Oh I’m sorry Lord, I didn’t realize.” 
What can we learn from Martha in this story? 
Let’s go back and look at the story, Luke 10:38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they
came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her
home.  
We Can Learn to be
Like Martha. 
For better or worse Martha had a servant’s heart.  Years ago a friend of mine, actually the
engineer who designed our building referred to engineers as “The Sons of
Martha” and that comes from a poem that Kipling wrote in it he
The Sons of Mary seldom bother,
for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful
soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was
rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end,
reprieve, or rest.
We have talked in the past about spiritual gifts, that is to
say the gifts that are given to each believer for the building up of the
Kingdom.
Depending on who you talk to the list include things like,
prophecy, speaking in unknown languages, healing, teaching and leadership.  And right in the middle of all of that is the
gift of hospitality, or entertaining.  A
very valid gift and a very important gift. 
It is referred to in scriptures like 1 Peter 4:9-10 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a
place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of
spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. As well as Romans 12:13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help
them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
And Hebrews 13:2 Don’t forget
to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained
angels without realizing it!
Do you remember that last scripture from the King James, it
says: Hebrews
13:2
Be
not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels
unawares. When I first
heard that I wondered who would want to entertain angels in underwear.  Talk about strange mind pictures.
So we need to be like Martha in the sense that she knew what
her giftedness was, and she was willing to put it to use.  She was one of those people whose home was
always open.  As believers one of the
most frustrating things in life can be trying to do things that we not gifted
for, it goes back to the trying to put square pegs in round holes. 
Now sometimes we can fill a temporary need, and that’s
valid.  But for the most part our place
of service ought to be where we are spiritually gifted.  When we find where that is, and then we exercise
that gift we not only feel fulfilled we are fulfilled.
Mary Lou Retton  said 
As simple as it sounds, we all must try to be
the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the
talents we’ve been given.
But spiritual gifts are more than simply talents, they are
gifts given to Christians from the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of seeing the
Kingdom of God grow.  And every Christian
has at least one spiritual gift, and most of us have several, some stronger,
some not nearly as evident.  That’s part
of why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 There
are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of
them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God
works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
But how do you find out what your gift is?  One of the easiest ways is to take a
spiritual gift inventory, it’s like a personality test except it helps us to
identify our spiritual giftedness.  If
you interested let me know and I’ll get a copy to you.  But many of us know what our giftedness is,
because that’s where we feel comfortable.
One of the easiest ways to determine that is by asking two
questions:  1) Do I enjoy this? and 2) Do
I do it well?  The first question can
only be answered by you; the second question may have to be answered honestly
by someone else.  Notice that I said
honestly. 
Not like the train wrecks who get panned on American Idol then
tell the judges: “But all my friends say I can sing.”  And I can only think of a couple of
explanations for that
1) Nobody in their life knows anything about music. And
maybe there are some bizarre little communities out there where horrific
singing is something to be admired and praised. I’ve never heard a hint of such
a community and as strange as it may seem it be it can’t be as strange as the
only other alternative and that is
2) People who say they love these folks would lie to them
about their singing abilities setting them up for ridicule and
humiliation.  And they would probably
defend their actions by saying they didn’t want to hurt their feelings.
For the church to function at its optimum level every
believer has to be exercising his or her spiritual gifts.  Paul uses the analogy of the body time and
time again to describe the church, and for a body to operate the way it was
designed each element does the work that it was designed to do.  The nose smells, the eyes see, the ears hear.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work, and we are told that often if one part
doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to that other parts take up the load.  And so a blind person may have a heightened
sense of hearing or smell to help offset the disability of not being able to
see. 
But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be and it’s not
nearly as effective.  In the same way
when some believers don’t use their spiritual gifts to help the kingdom grow
then the gap will have to be filled by someone else, perhaps someone who isn’t
gifted there but is willing to help carry the load.  But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be
and it’s not nearly as effective. Think about what happens when things get
mixed up and your nose runs and your feet smell.
If Cornerstone is going to be everything that God intends
Cornerstone to be.  And if we are going
to impact the people that God wants us to impact.  And if we are going to do all that God
intends for us to do it will be when “We” not “Me” does it. 
We’ve been here before but everyone here, everyone here has
an ability, a gift, a “something” that they could and should contribute to the
Kingdom, and often as Christ followers we do it through the local church.
Do you ever stop and think about how many people are
volunteering on a typical Sunday morning to make all this seem seamless.  So that adults and children can be lead into
God’s throne room?  This morning there
are 35 people who will be involved in some way today between the two
services.  From nursery to greeting to
making coffee and cleaning up afterwards to children’s ministry and platform
ministry and in the sound booth.  That
doesn’t include anyone who draws a salary.
And there is something you could be doing and something you
should be doing and if you are honest than you know that there is someplace at
Cornerstone that you can serve. 
And so the good is that Martha knew her spiritual gift and
was willing to put it to work.  But like
everything in life, balance is a wonder thing. 
Luke
10:39-40
Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s
feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner
she was preparing.  And it is while
Martha is exercising her spiritual gift that the wheels kind of come off the
wagon.
Martha had at least an elementary
grasp of who Jesus was because she called him Lord.  If she didn’t recognize him as the Son of God
or the Messiah she at least identified him as being a teacher or a Rabbi, and
we don’t have to look too far through the gospels to discover that Martha and
her siblings were friends of Christ.  So,
I wonder why she invited him to their house? 
Was it just to eat or had she
invited him to come so she could enjoy his company and to hear what he had to
say.  I would suspect that it was that
the latter.  I mean if she just wanted to
provide him with a meal she could have given him five deanari and sent him to McMalaci’s
or someplace. 
But as so often happens the good
soon eclipses the best.  And so in an
attempt to be the best hostess that she can be, to provide the cleanest
possible house, and to make the best meal she can, she neglects the very reason
she’s doing it.  Have you ever done that,
invited company over and by the time the evenings over, the dishes are done,
the kitchen’s cleaned up you realize that you didn’t get to spend any time with
your company.
There was a couple in our church in
Australia who had this hospitality thing down pat, if you stopped there to say
hello or to pick up your kids there was a pretty good chance that you would end
up staying for a meal.  Nothing fancy,
just put some more water in the soup, but they were some of the best times we
had.  We have known other people who
wouldn’t think of having you in there house unless everything was perfect,
nothing could be out of place and the meal, it had to be a five star event,
which inevitably meant that you never got invited to their house, or if you did
you didn’t get to visit they were way too busy getting ready for you to
actually have anytime for you.
We Can Learn to Not be Like Martha.  
You see,   Martha got so caught up in serving
Jesus that she didn’t take the time to know Jesus.  And that doesn’t just happen when we are
beating around the kitchen.  We can take
course after course, read book after book, go to seminar after seminar and
never take the time to actually sit at Jesus feet and build a relationship with
Him.  And to be truthful Jesus probably
would have preferred a tuna sandwich and Martha’s company to the fancy meal she
was so busy preparing.
What is it that distracts you from
getting to know Jesus better?  What keeps
you from having the relationship with Jesus that you would really like to
have?  What would it take for you to slow
down and sit at His feet and listen to what he has to say?
But that wasn’t the worst part of
the story.
And so Martha is busy being the
hostess with the mostess and before long she notices that she’s doing all the
work, which knowing Martha was what she wanted but she wanted it on her
terms.  You understand there’s a
difference between doing everything after someone has offered to help and
you’ve turned them down, and doing everything and nobodies even offered.  And it would appear that Mary hadn’t even
offered, she just plopped down at Jesus feet and became engrossed in what he
was saying. 
The text tells us that Mary wasn’t
helping but neither was Lazarus, or any of the disciples.  Sometimes we overwork our volunteers because
nobody else steps up to the plate.  And
maybe they offered and Martha turned them down, after all it was her house and
her kitchen, but maybe they were content to just sit back and enjoy the service
they were getting and it didn’t even cross their minds that they could help
out.
And that goes back to the Sunday
morning thing, we come in take a bulletin from a greeter, drop the kids off in
Nursery or Jr. Church, come out and grab a coffee and then we go in and enjoy
the worship, without ever thinking “I wonder how I could help out.”
And Martha was not in the least bit
impressed.  But she couldn’t really lash
out at Peter and James and John and the other nine so she lashed out at her
sister.
Luke 10:40
But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to
Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits
here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”   And this is where things got
nasty. 
It was here that Martha spit the
dummy.  If you close your eyes you can
almost picture her standing there, a tea towel over one shoulder, a smudge of
flour on her nose and her hands on her hips. 
She’s not a happy camper. 
What should have been a great time
for everyone suddenly became very awkward, Martha’s little tiff was in front of
everyone.  There are a couple of warnings
here for us.  First:  Martha
Insisted That Mary Share Her Spiritual Gift
.  I mean after all if she had the gift of
hospitality than everyone should the gift of hospitality.  But that isn’t the way it works, but often we
can get caught up in thinking that. 
Especially with gifts like mercy, or intersession, that is the gift of
prayer or the gift of helps. 
We kind of feel like: if I can pray
for four hours than everyone ought to be able to pray for four hours.  And if there’s nothing I love more than doing
hospital calls then everyone should feel that way.  When I was in Truro I had a retired gentleman
in my church who worked as my lay assistant helping with visitation.  And it was nothing for Don to visit 4 or 5
hundred people during the year, yes that’s right four or five hundred people, people
who were in the hospital or nursing homes or were shut-ins. 
And he did it so well, the gift of
mercy was right up at the top of Don’s gift blend. Don lived to call on people,
But he never tried to make me feel spiritually inferior because I didn’t have
the spiritual gift of mercy in the same way he did.  But on the other hand while he was using his
gift blend of mercy and compassion I was using my gift blend of Teaching and
Leadership and saw the church grow and move into a building project. 
Secondly Martha allowed herself to be consumed by bitterness.  I’ve said this before you will never, ever be
responsible for another believer’s behaviour but you will always be responsible
for your own.  Martha wasn’t responsible
for what Mary was or wasn’t doing.  But
when she allowed envy to rear its head she became responsible for that. 
I don’t think it was so much that
Martha wished that Mary would do what she was doing.  I think that Martha was envious of what Mary
was doing, but instead of asking herself “Why aren’t I doing that?”  She found it easier to attack Mary, not for
what she was doing, I mean how can you condemn a person for listening to
Christ, but instead for what she wasn’t doing.  
But that wasn’t the issue.
And Jesus recognized that, listen
to what he says Luke
10:41-42
But the Lord said to her, “My dear
Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one
thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be
taken away from her.”
What was the one thing that Mary
had discovered that Martha hadn’t?  I
don’t know it doesn’t tell us, but somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that it
has something to do with his words in Matthew 6:33 Seek the
Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything
you need.  What is your primary
concern?  And if someone was to define
your spiritual walk, where would it end up. 
I trust that your desire is to serve him.  To get to know Jesus better and to exercise
your spiritual gifts. 

I was blind but now I see.

This is week three of Old School Sunday
School.  And we sometimes think of Sunday
School as a fairly recent phenomena, something that became a part of our
churches in the fifties, when the parents of the boomers were filling churches
with their growing families. 

But the first Sunday schools
were set up in the 1780s to provide education to working children on their one
day off from the factory.

The concept of a “Sunday” school was proposed by Robert Raikes,
who raised the possibility in the Gloucester Journal.  His idea was supported by many clergy of the
day, it aimed to teach the youngsters reading, writing and cyphering and a
knowledge of the Bible.

It was another 90 years before children would be able to attend school
during the week.  Within five years of
the birth of Sunday School we are told there were over a quarter of a million
English Children attending classes, that’s pretty impressive.

But most of us are more familiar with the
Sunday School of our childhood with opening sessions, games, contests, learning
memory verses, singing choruses and learning our bible stories via the ever
present Flannel Graph”

This morning’s story is one of those Jesus stories that kids learned back in
the day.  (Tell the flannelgraph story
about the blind man)

Message

This is another one of those stories that make you go hmmmm.  Not because Jesus healed a blind man, he
healed all kinds of blind people in the gospels and he healed them by
themselves, and in pairs and in groups. 
But this story was different, different in the way it was initiated,
different in the way that Jesus approached the blind man and different in the
way he healed the blind man. 

John
9:1
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man
who had been blind from birth.

The Meeting was Different  If you are familiar with most of the
healings that Jesus is credited with in the New Testament you know that they
were initiated by either the person who needed to be healed or by someone close
to them, a relative or a friend.  Either
someone came to Jesus themselves asking to be healed or approached him as he
passed by or they were brought to Jesus. 
But in most of these cases it was a conscious effort by someone.  The man with the demon possessed son, the
woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment when he was in the crowd, or blind
Bartimaeus who began crying out to Jesus when he heard he was near.   But
this isn’t what happened in this story.

We are told that Jesus and his disciples were walking along the street in
Jerusalem when they saw a blind man who we are told had been blind from
birth.  Now I don’t know what the blind
man was doing, but I would suspect that he was begging, because the reality of
the situation is that was all he would have been expected to do two thousand
years ago.  And before I began teaching
in West Africa I really didn’t grasp the enormity of what it is like to have a
major handicap in the developing world. 
We live in a society that is protected by a huge safety net and where
people are encouraged to move beyond whatever physical challenges might limit
them.  And so while there are certainly
some job opportunities that might be off limits for someone with no vision,
there are opportunities out there.  Not
so in Jesus day, if you could not see and if there was no one to support you,
then your only recourse would be to rely on the kindness of strangers. 

And so Jesus and his disciples
are walking along and see this blind man and it’s here the conversation gets a
little awkward.  Let’s pick up the story
in John 9:1-2 As
Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,”
his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his
own sins or his parents’ sins?”
A few years back when we were a
polling station for the federal election we had some volunteers from the high
school helping out.  One young lady was
assisting voters when they arrived, one elderly gentleman came in a wheelchair
pushed by his wife.  The gentleman was
very frail and hunched over in his chair and so the young lady leaned over and
very slowly and carefully asked if she could assist the gentleman.  To which he snidely replied “I’m a cripple,
I’m not stupid.”  The girl was
crushed. 
And I wonder if this blind man
wanted to say, “Hey guys, the sign says blind not deaf, I’m right here.”
I don’t know what prompted the
question from the disciples, perhaps they were picking up on a previous
conversation, maybe it was just a question one of them had and it seemed like
the opportune time to ask it.  And it’s
still a question that is asked today, “What did I do to deserve this?”  “Is my child sick because of something I
did?”  “What have I done wrong?”  In the Old Testament book of Job, Job’s
friends implied that all those nasty things that happened to Job had to be his
fault, obviously there were hidden sin in his life. 
It seems that we want to blame
someone, that it’s not enough that it just happened.  And yet that is what Jesus seems to imply
here when he responds in John 9:3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus
answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”  Does that imply that the man had been
born blind for this very moment, that he had lived a life devoid of sight as a
set up for Christ to heal him at this very point?  That seems pretty heartless.  Because I am a reader I can’t imagine life with
sight, it was Matthew Henry who wrote about
this man “If the light is sweet, how melancholy must
it needs be for a man, all his days, to eat in darkness!”   We know so little about the blind man,
perhaps he was a godly man with a super positive outlook on life who radiated
righteousness in spite of his circumstances, and that’s what Jesus meant by
God’s power been seen in him.
When I first became a Christ
follower my pastor was Jack MacKenzie. 
And Jack and his wife are the godliest people I have ever met.  I first met the Mackenzies not long after
they had buried their second child. 
Their teenage daughter Elaine had died of a lingering disease that
robbed her of movement and eventually robbed her of her breath.  And their college age son was killed in a
tragic accident.  And yet through it all
their love for God and trust in his purpose shone through.  And the power of God was seen in them.  There will be countless people in heaven
because of the witness of Jack and Charlene through those dark days.  Did God have a hand in the death of the
MacKenzie children?  I don’t think
so.  Was he able to use the tragedy for
good?  Most definitely.  And here a man who had been blind since birth
will used to reveal the power and grace of Jesus.  He wasn’t born blind because of his parent’s
sins or his own sins.  He was born blind
because he was born into a broken world where bad things happen, even to good
people.
And Jesus implies that this
man’s greatest need wasn’t that he needed to see light, but that he needed to
see the light of the world. 
And even though the man wasn’t
seeking a healing from Jesus, he receives an offer of healing from Jesus.  Let’s continue with the story
John
9:6
Then he (Jesus) spit on the ground, made
mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes.

The Healing was Different 

This isn’t the only time in the gospels that we see Jesus heal a person, and
it’s not the only time in the bible that we see Jesus heal a blind person.  But this particular story has the most detail
of any of the instances where someone was blind was given their sight.

And there are things about this story that make it different than the other
stories.  It’s the only time that we see
Jesus heal anyone using mud.  And
different people have different opinions about the method that was used
here.  Some tell us that spit was
considered to have healing power back then. 
I do know that mother’s spit is pretty powerful stuff from cleaning a
child’s face to flattening out a wayward cowlick. 

And this wasn’t the first time
that Jesus used his saliva in a healing, we see another example of a blind man
being healed by Jesus in Mark 8 using his spit, saliva sounds so much classier
but we read in Mark 8:23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the
village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked,
“Can you see anything now?”
And in Mark chapter 7 a man is
brought to Jesus with a speech impediment and Jesus spit on his finger and then
touched the man’s tongue and he was healed.

But this time he doesn’t just use his saliva he mixes it with dirt and makes
a mud poultice which he applies to the man’s eyes.  And at least one commentator makes a case
that the man had been blind since birth and Jesus is just going back to
creation where God created man from the dust of the ground.  And so Jesus is correcting his lack of vision
with the original building material.

But we don’t know, all we know is that in different cases Jesus used
different methods to heal people.  Sometimes
he touched them, sometimes they touched him. 
Sometimes he spoke to the person who needed to be healed and other times
he simply spoke to their loved ones. 
Sometimes it was close up and there were times that it was from a
distance.  And that is the reality today
as well.  God still heals in different
ways.  There are still people who are
healed by God in a miraculous manner without any physical intervention and then
there are times that people are healed through modern medicine, does that move
God out of the equation.  And this isn’t
a cop out but some folks are healed through death.  If we believe what we say we believe about
heaven and eternity it is the ultimate healing. 
We won’t live forever and often our later years aren’t always our
healthiest years, but God’s  promise
tells us in Revelation
21:4
He will wipe every tear from their
eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these
things are gone forever.”  

And it’s the same with our salvation, there are as many different salvation
stories as there are people telling them. 
You may have been saved at the end of the service when you were called
to the altar while the congregation sang “Come as you are”.  Or it may have been around a campfire at
youth camp, or maybe you were one of hundreds who responded at a Billy Graham
crusade. 

I came to know Jesus because my best friend kept talking about the
difference that Jesus had made in his life and then one night he dragged me out
to the Wesleyan Church in Saint John. 
They gave an altar call and I had no idea what they wanted me to do so
after the service I told my friend that I wanted to become a Christian and we
prayed together.

When Angela was in grade five the Gideon’s handed out New Testaments in her
school and she read the prayer at the end of the NT and signed the commitment
page, and then three years later strangers showed up at her door asking if her
parents would let her go on a bus to the Sunday School at Hillside Wesleyan
Church.  Your story is probably
completely different than ours but that doesn’t make yours or ours any less
valid.

It is interesting that the man
didn’t come to Jesus for healing, Jesus offered the healing to him but he had
to take steps as well.  John 9:7 He told him, “Go
wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and
washed and came back seeing!
In other cases Jesus just spoke and the healing happened, but those
folks had asked Jesus to heal them they wanted to be healed.  Jesus is offering this man the choice.  He could do as Jesus commanded and be healed,
or he could go home wash the mud off in the kitchen sink and not be healed, it
was his choice. 
God’s grace is available to
each of us, but it is up to us to take that which has been offered.  For example following the service Julie will
be taking pictures for the new photo directory. 
And so we are offering each person here the chance to be in the photo
directory, all you have to do to accept that offer is to go and have your
picture taken.  You may choose not to
accept the offer, in which case your picture won’t be in the photo directory,
but your decision to not accept the offer in no way negates the fact that the
offer was made.
In theology we call it Prevenient
Grace and that is simply the divine grace that precedes human decision. It
exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done
So what happened?  I’ll let the
blind man tell us in his own words.  John 9:11 He (the formerly
known as “The blind man”) told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and
spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash
yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”
The offer of a healing was
extended by Jesus and the man had the option of either accepting it or
rejecting it, and he accepted it.  The
result was that he could see.  Now
understand he did nothing to earn the gift of healing, and really did nothing,
other than obey Jesus, to facilitate the healing.  Paul would later write in Ephesians 2:8 God saved
you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a
gift from God.
And it would fit with this
story if we read it this way Ephesians 2:8-9 God healed you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t
take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Whether you receive a physical
healing from God or a spiritual healing. 
It is a gift from God.  Not every
sick person that we pray for will be healed, that is God’s providence.  But every person who accepts the grace of God
for a spiritual healing will be saved.  

The Response was Different  One would think that everybody who heard
that the man had been healed would be excited and happy for him.  But that wasn’t what happened. 

There were those who didn’t believe it had happened, they stated that it
wasn’t really the blind man instead it was someone who looked like him.  But the man insisted that it was indeed him,
and you’d think he’d know.  But more than
the confusion was the fact that his healing enraged the religious leaders. 

There’s a whole section of the story that wasn’t read for us this morning
that tells how the Pharisees grilled this poor man about the facts of his
healing.  They accused Jesus of being a
sinner for healing on the Sabbath, and said that proved that he must be of the
devil.  They couldn’t get past the rules,
or at least their interpretation of the rules. 
This seems like as good of a place as any for a Mark
Twain quote, Twain said “Loyalty to a petrified
opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul.”  For the religious leaders the fact
that every I was dotted and every t was crossed was much more important than
the fact a man had been given a brand new life. 

Jesus summed up his reasoning
another time he was accused of healing on the Sabbath when he said in Luke 14:5 Then he turned
to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or
your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?”

It is interesting to note that in some translations the word donkey is used
instead of son.  I’ve heard people use
this excuse for any manner of work they do on Sunday but years ago I heard
someone say “If your donkey falls in the ditch every Sunday you ought to fill
in the ditch or get another donkey.”  But
that is beyond the point.

The blind man wasn’t really all that interested in theological debates on
whether or not he should have been healed when he had been healed.  

For him it was a very simple
story he sums it up in John 9:25 . . . the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now
I can see!”
His life had been made
different, he could see what he had never been able to see before, and with
that came all kinds of changes.  He would
have to find work, he would have to get used to how the people he loved
looked.  As a matter of fact he would
have to get used to how everything looked, he had always been blind, he had no
idea what anything looked like.  He was
seeing life through brand new eyes.   In
another Jesus story a blind man had been healed and when Jesus asked him what
he saw he said that he saw people but they looked like trees.  I don’t think the people looked like trees
nearly as much as they didn’t look like what he thought people would look like.
When you become a Christ
follower your life should change, and not everybody will appreciate it.  Your habits should change, your priorities
should change.  When I became a Christian
I stopped hanging around some of my old friends because their behaviour made me
uncomfortable, and some old friends stopped hanging around with me, because me
behaviour made them uncomfortable.
But to the blind man all the
changes in his lifer were worth it, after all he was blind but now he could see.  And he wanted to share his experience with
everyone.  In this account he tells his
story four times and the even then the religious leaders don’t seem to get it,
we pick up the story in John 9:26 “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”   I’m sure he felt like saying “If I
told you once I’ve told you a dozen times, instead what he tells them is John
9:27
“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once.
Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his
disciples, too?”
And really, our story isn’t
complete until we ask others the question, “Do you want to become his disciples
too?”  Which is why we are told in Psalm 107:1-2 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is
good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak
out!
So where are you at today?  Maybe you’re like the blind man, unaware that
the one who can change your life is so close. 
But Jesus is just a prayer away. 
And he has already offered you his salvation and his grace, but like any
gift it needs to be received.  Are you
ready to wash the mud off your eyes and accept the new life he is offering you?
Of this I am certain, if you
accept his offer your life will never be the same.

Ouch


Recently I heard about a four year old boy in Ontario who suffered frost bite on his tongue when he licked the frozen window on his school bus. Ouch.  When I was a kid there was always the story about the kid who got stuck to a sign post in the winter when they licked the frozen surface.  I don’t know if it actually happened or not but it certainly served as a warning, I never felt the urge to lick a metal sign post in the winter, and just to be safe I never licked a metal sign post in the summer either. 
I felt bad for the little fellow, he obviously had never heard the same stories that I had heard.  But I was amazed that the boy’s parents demanded to know why their son wasn’t better supervised on the school bus.  Seriously, do we need a monitor for every child who rides school buses in the winter? Maybe parents just need to remind their children about the dangers of licking cold metal.  But there will always be one kid who has to try for themselves. 

And even though God gives us all kinds of warnings in the Bible, sometimes people just have to try it for themselves.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Baptism of Jesus, Old School Sunday School 2

This is week two of our Old School Sunday School
series.  We tried this last year and had
so much fun with the Old Testament Stories that we decided to bring it back for
an encore.

Sunday School isn’t a big deal in most churches
these days, it’s been rebranded as Jr. Church and instead of happening before
the adult service it happens during the adult service.  But there was a day when having a big Sunday
School was the mark of a growing successful church.  And churches sponsored contests and bought
buses to bring children in.  But not so
much these days.
We still have a couple of churches on our
district that have larger Sunday School attendance then their Sunday morning
worship attendance and that is because parents drop their kids off for Sunday
School, presumable to get some churching, and then pick them up before the
church service starts.  But that isn’t
the case for most Wesleyan churches, and probably most other churches as well. 
Back in the day churches would have a Sunday
School Superintendent, and a teacher for each class and often their own
treasurer because you wouldn’t think of coming to Sunday School without
bringing an offering.  And those teachers
taught every week, often for years and sometimes decades, pouring the stories
of the bible into those kids.
And a staple of Sunday School was the
Flannelgraph board.    
(Do Flannelgraph story of the Baptism of Jesus)
Message
It is a story that has
confounded preachers and theologians for two thousand years.  The Baptism of Jesus. 
We know the story, John,
Jesus’ cousin has been travelling throughout Palestine preaching and baptizing
folks, and when people ask if he is the Messiah that has been promised he tells
them “No, but I’ll let you know when I see him”. 
I don’t know what type of
relationship if any the cousins had.  I
have 21 first cousins.  And some I am
close with and other’s I wouldn’t know if I tripped over them in the dark,
unless of course they said something like, “Hey be careful, I’m your
cousin.”  And the bible doesn’t tell
us if Jesus and John played together as kids, or if they hung out together as
adults.  For that matter we don’t even
know if the boys ever met before the encounter that we read earlier. 
But I would suspect they
did, John’s father was a priest in the temple which meant that they lived in
Jerusalem and last week we discovered that every year at Passover Jesus and his
family travelled to Jerusalem for the celebrations so it would make sense that
they would stay with family while they were there.  When I was a kid and we travelled to Grand
Manan in the summer we always stayed with family and it was then that I
reconnected with the cousins who were close to my age.  And Jesus and John were only separated by six
months.  Perhaps they could identify with
Isabel Norton who said “In my cousin, I
find a second self.”
But can you imagine always
being compared to your younger cousin? 
“Why can’t you be more like Jesus? 
He never does anything wrong.”  I
wonder if John ever said “the way everyone goes on about Jesus, you’d think he
was perfect.”  I wonder if as teenagers
when Jesus suggested they do things His way if John ever said “Oh yeah, who
made you God?”
And I wonder if the boys ever
had even an inkling of what life would have in store for them?  And looking back we see so many parallels in
their lives.  Both were conceived in a
miraculous manner, both preached messages that appealed to some and annoyed others
and ultimately both paid for their preaching with their lives. 
But I don’t think the cousins
understood what their future held, because When John was asked if he was the
Messiah he never said “No, you are thinking of my cousin Jesus.” As a matter of
fact in the book of John we read John’s own testimony (Side note here John the
Baptist did not write the book of John but the John who did write it quotes
John the Baptist.) So we read John 1:32-34 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit
descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was
the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on
whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the
Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen
One of God.”
So there was no doubt in John’s
mind when he said to the crowd, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
And it is at this point in
their lives that their stories intersect. 
And this particular story in the lives of John and Jesus has confused
and perplexed preachers and theologians for years.  And you might be wondering: Why?  What was so confusing about what
happened?  It was just a baptism.
Well, you understand that
the message that John was preaching was a message of repentance and the baptism
that he was calling people to what a baptism of repentance, and it was a sign
that people were turning away from their sinful behaviour.  And the problem is that Jesus had nothing to
repent of, he was sinless.  So why was he
baptized?  Good question and it’s a
question that even John struggled with because when Jesus came to be baptized
we read that John resisted, instead saying that Jesus should be baptizing him
and not the other way around.  But Jesus
insisted and in the end he was baptized by John. 
But if Jesus didn’t need to
be baptized as a sign of repentance then why was he baptized?
For Jesus
It Signified a New Beginning
This was the beginning of Jesus ministry, the
beginning of a brand new life.  There
isn’t a lot recorded about Jesus’ life before his baptism.  As a matter of fact the only story we have between
his birth and his baptism was the story we looked at last week when his parents
lost him on a visit to Jerusalem during Passover.
So we know that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem
and we know that he was raised in Nazareth and that the family visited
Jerusalem every year, and that is it. 
And that is probably a good thing, because you can imagine all the
discussions and arugments that people would get into if they had details of the
early life of Jesus.  Why did he do this,
why didn’t he do that, and on and on and on. 
But his early life was
irrelevant to the story.  We know that he
just didn’t magically appear, there were those in the community who knew who Jesus
was, we are told in Matthew 13:54-55 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught
there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this
wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the
carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph,
Simon, and Judas.   
And from what we read they
seemed stuck on who they perceived Jesus to be instead of understanding who he
was.  They knew him as Jesus the son of
Joseph and not Jesus the Son of God.  And
along with being known as the son of a carpenter we know that he had adopted
the trade of his mother’s husband Joseph, because in Marks account of the same
story we read Mark 6:3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son
of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters
live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in
him.
But the day he was baptized he
put his past behind him, as far as we know he never hammered another nail or
sawed another board.  Jesus’ baptism
turned the page that began a new chapter in the story of his life. 
From this point on his life
would be defined by the miraculous, he would heal the sick, cast out demons,
raise the dead and feed multitudes with just a handful of food.  And it all started on this day.
By choosing to be baptized
Jesus declared for all to see and hear, “Today is a new day, the beginning of a
new story.  I am no longer Jesus the
carpenter, now I am Jesus the messiah, the giver of grace and the saviour of
souls.”  He could point to the day that
he was baptized as the beginning of this new story and for two thousand years
others have pointed to that same day and that same event as the beginning of
Jesus’ ministry.
It is the same when we are
baptized.  It signifies a brand new day,
a brand new life, a brand new beginning it is us declaring for the world to see
““Today is a new day, the beginning of a new story.  I am a new person”.  It is the practical demonstration of 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has
become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
In the past I have had people
ask if they could have a private baptism service and my answer has been “no”.  Why?  Because
baptism is a public declaration of your decision to follow Jesus.
So let’s take a look at
Matthew’s account for a minute Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to
be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who
needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus
said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John
agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water,
the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and
settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son,
who brings me great joy.”
I think the second reason that Jesus was baptized was 2) That’s What God Required Why did God
require that Jesus be baptized?  Now
there’s a good question.  Hmmmmm!  Nope don’t have a good answer. 
But here is the reality, we don’t always get that question
answered.  Why does God want his people
to do this?, or why doesn’t God want his people to do that?  Sometimes it’s easy to figure out.  Or at least we think we have it figure
out.  For example Leviticus 11:7 And the pig may not be
eaten, for though it has split
hooves, it does not chew the cud. They
were also told they couldn’t eat other animals or reptiles or fish, because most of those critters were yucky,
the technical term was unclean but it means the same thing.  3000 years ago it was difficult to cook pork
the right way to kill the parasites that live in it,
we know today that there are certain time of the year that you can eat shell
fish and certain times that you can’t. 
We can read about it in the paper or hear on the radio but then, it was just safer to say “Don’t eat this
stuff.” 
But there
are other things that God requires of us that we either can’t figure out or we
don’t agree with, but that doesn’t negate the fact that is what God, creator of
the universe requires of us.  And the
fact that we don’t understand it or the fact that we don’t agree with it or
that the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled for or against it doesn’t change
one iota what God has required of us.
Do you
seriously think that God’s will is dependent on what nine judges in Ottawa
think?  The Trinity is sitting around and
the Father says “After the last decision from the Canadian Supreme Court we
going to have to do some editing in the Bible”
And what happened when Jesus
did what the Father required?  Matthew 3:17 And a voice
from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”   Why did the Son bring the Father great
joy?  Because he was obedient. Which is
why we are told in 1 John 5:3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his
commandments are not burdensome.
You might have all kinds of reasons why you think you don’t
need to be baptized but here is the bottom line, God requires it.  When he set down the mission of the church he
told the disciples in Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit.
When you become a disciple or follower of Jesus you are to
be baptized.  It was Saint Basil who wrote 
“All of us who desire the kingdom of God are,
by the Lord’s decree, under an equal and rigorous necessity of seeking after
the grace of Baptism.” And if Saint Basil isn’t good enough for you then
you need to understand that Jesus considered it a deal breaker, listen to his
words in Mark 16:16 Jesus
said
“Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.
But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”  Did you catch that?  He didn’t say “Anyone who believes will be
saved.” What he said was “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
  I don’t want to get into an entire
discussion of the saving merits of Baptism, but it is a matter of obedience and
you can’t call yourself a Christ follower if you don’t follow Christ and following
Christ means being obedient to Christ. 
The third reason I think Jesus wanted to be baptized was 3) It Set an Example  I’m sure
that Jesus knew human nature enough to know that if he wasn’t baptized that
there would always be a group who insisted that they didn’t have to be baptized
because Jesus wasn’t baptized.  And so
even though he didn’t need to be baptized as a sign of repentance, remember he
had nothing to repent from he was without sin, he chose to be baptized so he
would be an example to us and not an excuse for us. 
You may have come up with a
dozen good reason, in your mind anyway, for why you don’t need to be
baptized.  But none of them would come
close to why Jesus didn’t have to be baptized, and yet he was. 
Remember back in the 90’s the
entire WWJD fad?  The question “What
would Jesus do?” was asked on bracelets, coffee mugs and T-shirts.    In
this case the answer is very apparent. 
He would be baptized. 
But it’s not just in the
gospels that we hear about Baptism, Paul tells the Colossians 2:12
For you were buried with Christ when
you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted
the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
And I think that Jesus was
baptized as 4) It Demonstrated What Was
To Come.  
Often when I talk to those
who are being baptised I refer to the analogy of the death and resurrection of
Christ.  And that isn’t a Denn thing, it
is a Paul thing.  Along with the reading
in Colossians we find this in the book of
Romans 6:3-4 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with
Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were
buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by
the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

And so here is this picture of Jesus being buried and then coming back
from the grave, of death and resurrection which kind of lends itself to baptism
by immersion, if I do say so myself.  Kind
of hard to get that image from a little sprinkling, just saying.

With our baptism, the symbolism
is us dying to our old nature, to our old self, to our old life and being born
again with this new life.  And so we bury
our old life in the act of baptism and when we come out of the water it is a
picture of being restored, resurrected to a new life.
And then when Jesus has done
what he came to do that day, after he has been baptized, listen to what
happens. Mark 1:9-11 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and
John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he
saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a
dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring
me great joy.”
Here we have the Trinity
displayed for us, the Son is baptised, the Spirit descends on him, by the way
the bible doesn’t say the spirit looks like a dove it says the spirit descended
like a dove.  Remember Mohammed Ali said at one point that “I’ll float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”  But he didn’t look like a butterfly or a bee,
again I digress.    And then as the
spirit descends on Jesus the Father affirms him by saying “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me
great joy.”
Father, Son and Holy Spirit all
together. If you are like me there are times that you struggle to understand
the concept of the Trinity, but don’t feel bad it was Augustine
who said “If you deny the Trinity, you lose
your soul; if you try to explain the Trinity, you lose your mind.”     
And when I struggle to
understand or explain the Trinity I always end up back here, at the
beginning.  Because it is at this point
that we see the Father and Spirit acknowledge and affirm the beginning of the
Son’s ministry here on earth.  And that’s
why when we baptize people at Cornerstone we baptize in the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit, in keeping with the command in Matthew 28:19 Therefore,
go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Shortly after we moved into the
building we had a lady come to know Jesus, and she started to date a gentleman
from a different tradition then we are from and she came and told me that she
wanted to be baptized but wanted me to baptize her only in the name of
Jesus.  And I said no, because that isn’t
my understanding of the scriptures.
So this morning we have some folks
who have asked to be baptized, and they are following the example that Jesus
set for them, they are putting down a stake and saying this is a new day, and
they are illustrating for us the power of the resurrection. 

Smile, it’s good for You


Last month Grand Manan Island lost one of its oldest residents, a man that the media has embraced over the past several years.  There have been television specials aired about him and magazine articles written about him.  Part of the fascination seems to be that even in his tenth decade, Oliver Green has continued to drive a car and do odds jobs.  At a time when most of his peers had been retired for three decades or more, Green didn’t seem to slow down. 
But more than anything, what attracted the media was that Mr. Green wasn’t known by his given name, instead everyone knew him as “Smiles”, presumably because of his disposition.
So if people were going to nickname you based on your outlook on life, I wonder what that name would be?  The reality is that for most of us it would depend, there are times and days that I could answer to any of the Seven Dwarfs’ names. (Have you ever noticed that the only Dwarf without a beard is Dopey?”) But I digress.
Maybe the secret is found in Abraham Lincoln’s words “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”  So if being happy is a choice, will it be your choice?  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Losing Jesus, Old School Sunday School 2

So, where were you when you lost your kid?  Seriously, if you have children you’ve lost one at
some point or another. And if you haven’t lost one yet you will.  Maybe it was in a grocery store, or on a
street, at Disney Land or perhaps at church. 
But you remember the moment when panic set in and you realized that you
didn’t know where your child was.
When I was little my mother looked on the street
from our apartment and thought “I wonder what type of mother would let their toddler in diapers
wander down the middle of the street.”  Then it dawned on her that she was that type of mother and I had
escaped again.  Once when I was locking
up the church in Truro I realized that I had an extra three year old with
Deborah.  Kellie’s parents had arrived in
separate vehicles and when they left they both thought Kellie was with the
other one, it wasn’t until they got home that Ron and Kim realized they had misplaced
their youngest.
Our moment came in Arlie Beach in Queensland
Australia.  Arlie Beach is about a 12
hour drive from Brisbane where we were living at the time, it is a beautiful
little resort town on the very edge of the great barrier reef and it is full of
strange people.
We had spent our day on the reef, first on a
semi-submersible and then snorkelling and scuba diving on the reef itself.  It was a full day.  When we got back to town and had supper we
were visiting some of the shops and Angela and I split up and it was only when
we got back together that we realized that we had our nine year old but we didn’t have our six
year old, again with the “I thought she was with you” discussion.  Panic ensued as we started to retrace our
steps looking for our “baby”.  We eventually found her back at the dive shop
we had visited earlier looking at pictures from our dive.  She assumed that we would come back, if not
for her at least for the pictures. 
And most parents have a similar story, perhaps
more dramatic perhaps less but you know that sudden hollow feeling in your
stomach.
And it is in the
book of Luke that we find the only accounts of Jesus as a child and in this
snippet we read about the time Mary and Joseph lost their oldest kid.  I’m sure that
Mary and Joseph told the story of their trip to Jerusalem on many occasions,
recounting the horror of that day.  The
story starts in Luke 2:41-42 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for
the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the
festival as usual.
Culturally we are
told that it was required by Jewish law that every adult male who lived within
20 kms of Jerusalem should go to the temple in the capital city for the
Passover celebration.  It was also
decreed that under Jewish law that at 13 a boy became a man.  So this was a very special occasion for
Jesus.  This wasn’t the first time that Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Passover,
but it would be the last time he would celebrate the feast as a child and I’m sure he was looking forward to next year. 
The Passover
celebration lasted for several days and culminated in the Passover Feast; it
was the biggest holiday in the Jewish faith and was a major celebration.  Mary and Joseph and their family would have
been there with friends and extended family from Nazareth and we are told that
they probably didn’t travel alone, 
Those in the know
tell us that in all probability the women and children would have travelled as
a group and the men would have travelled as a group.  You only have to go to a social function
today to realize that things haven’t changed
much.  We are also told that the women
and children would have left earlier in the morning and travelled slower while
the men would have left later but travelled faster, and every one would have
ended up at the destination around the same time.
Because of Jesus’ age he could have travelled with either group, he was really neither
fish nor fowl.  Young enough to still
travel with the women and children if he wished but old enough to tag along
with the men.  And that is where the
trouble began, because it would appear that when Joseph got ready to head out
with the men he assumed that Jesus was with his mother, while Mary had assumed
that Jesus would follow with the men and older boys.  And you know what happens when we assume
right?  That’s
right sometimes we are wrong.
Luke 2:43-45 After the
celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in
Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the
other travellers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they
started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to
Jerusalem to search for him there.   Can you imagine the panic? 
The finger pointing?  The
fear?  Mary and Joseph would have split
up and began canvasing all of the other groups. 
Who had seen Jesus?  Where and
when?  By the time they had finished it
was very apparent that no one had seen Jesus at all through that day.  When they couldn’t find him we are told they left the group and headed back to
Jerusalem on their own.  But how would
they find him?  They came from the little
town of Nazareth and Jerusalem was the largest city in the country.  Perhaps not Toronto size but certainly the
task before them was daunting.
And
so they hunted, they went back to their accommodations and Jesus wasn’t there, they went to where they had eaten and Jesus wasn’t there, they looked up the new friends they had made during the
days they had been celebrating and no Jesus. 
We
aren’t told but we have to assume
they went to the authorities with no results and checked whatever served for
emergency health care to see if a twelve year old boy had been brought in, but
to no avail.  We don’t know if Mary and Joseph had brought their other children back to
Jerusalem with them, or if they had sent them ahead with family members but
when it seemed that all the avenues had been exhausted we read this Luke 2:46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple,
sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.
We don’t know what
took them to the temple, if they were looking for Jesus or if in desperation
they returned to the centre of their spiritual lives to pray for their son and
to seek comfort from their God.  Whatever
it was that took them to the temple took them to their son.  Isn’t it always
the way, you find what you are looking for in the last place you look.  Which is one of the dumbest things people
say.   Just once wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone say “Yep I
found it in the third from the last place I looked.  I had a list of places I needed to look so
even after I found it I just kept right on looking.”
In
this case it kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if they had of
gone to the temple to ask for prayer before they looked all over
Jerusalem.   But Mary and Joseph were
like most of us, we try to do it on our own first and only after it becomes
apparent that we can’t do it do we ask God for help.
I
wonder about the range of emotions that Mary and Joseph must have felt when
they saw Jesus there right as rain in a conversation with the teachers of
religious law?  From “I can’t believe you are all right we
were so worried about you.” To “What
were you thinking, your father and I were worried sick.” To “You are going to get the spanking of your life when you get home
young man.”
It appears it was
somewhere in the middle, you understand that we are just getting snippets of
the conversation, we are hearing the high points not all the minutia that
actually makes up a conversation, so we hear Luke 2:47-48 All who heard
him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his
mother said to him, “why have you done this to
us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”  That’s a good motherly response, lead with guilt.   And we can read it any number of ways
because we don’t know the tone of voice that
Mary used, the volume of her words, the look on her face or whether she was
hugging Jesus or shaking him. 
And he responds by
saying Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”   It might be
blasphemy, and you might want to stand back in case the lighting strikes, but
reading that I think I would have reached out and slapped the kid.  Arrrggghhh. 
And I have never hit either of my kids in anger, although there have
been times. 
Most of the
commentators agree that this was a pivotal point in Jesus’ life, that it was at point that he became aware of who he was and
the task that lay before him.  There are
all kinds of stories, legends and tales of Jesus as a child but this is the
only biblical account of Jesus’ childhood.   Up to this account the sum total of what we
know about Jesus as a child is summed up in these words in Luke 2:39-40 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the
Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up
healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on him.
We don’t know all of
the intricacies and mechanics that went into God becoming man but somehow I
doubt if he had a full awareness of who he was before this stage.  If he was to truly experience what it was to
be fully human how do you do that with an awareness that you are God at the age
of three?
And so it was here that in whatever fashion for
whatever reason the switch was tripped and Jesus became aware of his deity and
his destiny.  Had Mary and Joseph forgot
the wonder of his birth, maybe the everyday had caused them to lose sight of
the eternal and suddenly Mary and Joseph were reminded of who their son truly
was, not the son of Joseph creator of tables and chairs but the son of God, creator
and master of the universe. I wonder if for Joseph he suddenly remembered “That’s right I’m not his father.”  
As William Barclay tells
us in the Daily Study Bible “Here we have the story of the day when Jesus
discovered who he was.”
Adam Clarke adds to that in his
commentary “According to the
Jewish canons, it was the age at which they were obliged to begin to learn a
trade.”   And so it would appear that Jesus had chosen his path, listen to the
statement that Jesus made Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”   That Jesus had
chosen his path and was beginning to learn his trade and it ultimately would
have nothing to do with carpentry. 
But
this morning I don’t want to focus on Jesus
discovery instead I want to focus on the question “How do we lose Jesus?”  Because we all know people
who had a close personal relationship with Christ but now they don’t, and the question is: How does that happen?  And maybe you are in that position yourself,
you are sitting there today thinking, “That’s me, I used to have that
relationship but now it’s different, what happened?”
Some thoughts on losing Jesus,
would apply to Mary and Joseph and might apply to you or someone you know.
1) It
Was Not Intentional There is nothing to lead us to
believe that this was part of the plan.  
 I don’t think that Mary and Joseph sat
down and planned how they would ditch the kid. 
“Ok Mary, you sneak out with the other women and the kids, and then
when Jesus is looking for you I’ll slip out
the back door.”  I don’t think it happened that way, I
think that it was a total shock at the end of the day when they suddenly
realized that Jesus wasn’t with them.
When we lost
Deborah in Arlie Beach it wasn’t intentional,
we didn’t plan to lose her and she didn’t plan to get lost but she did.
And in the same way
I don’t think that anyone becomes a
Christ follower thinking “Someday I won’t be this close to Jesus, someday Jesus will no longer be a part of
my life.”  That’s not to say that along the way some people don’t make a conscious decision to walk away from Jesus and his
teachings, but that wasn’t part of the plan from the
beginning.
So what happened?
I think Busyness
Played a Part.  It
was a crazy morning, Joseph was trying to get things organized for the trip and
Mary was trying to round up the kids. 
They weren’t busy with bad things or evil things they were just busy.  And to be fair their busyness had a lot to do
with good things, they had been in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover that was
good.  Joseph needed to get back to the
carpenter’s shop and perhaps as he walked with the other men he talked
business and found new customers, that was good.   Mary was tending to the children and
enjoying being with her friends those were good things.  But in their busyness they lost sight of the
fact that with every step they were moving further away from their first born.
The urgent often distracts us from the eternal,
we become caught up with the here and now and lose sight of the there and
then.  We become so busy with life and
all that involves that we lose sight of God. 
He takes a back seat to career, and sports and school and holidays and
yard work and and and.  Not bad things
but we can become so busy that we miss the important things.  My Daddy used to say, “The hurrier I go the behinder I get.”
Which is why Jesus
reminds us in Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live
righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Slow down, take a breath, look around and find
Jesus.
I think Carelessness
Played a Part Perhaps they were seeing Jesus in a
different light than how they had seen him previously.  He wasn’t a little boy any longer he was growing up and
taking on more responsibility for himself and his younger siblings.
And they had never lost him before.  But a year ago they were paying more
attention to the whereabouts of their son; they made sure they knew where he
was and who he was playing with.  A year
ago they would have been certain of his location and wouldn’t have simply
assumed that he was with the other parent. 
It might not be flattering but they had become careless with their
child.
And to a certain degree if we look at times that
our children have gone missing it has been through carelessness.  Things distracted us and it’s been awhile
since we checked on them and then there they were, gone. 
When we were getting ready to move to Australia
we knew that we were going to be going through a number of busy airports with a
three year old and a five year old so we decided to take precautions.  So we bought wrist leashes, not a big deal
now but twenty five years ago more so. 
And to get the kids used to them we started using them in the mall,
Stephen figured that since he was on a leash he should bark, which led to interesting
conversations.  And some old folks
actually criticized us for putting our kids on a tether, but we never lost
them.
If we were honest
when we discover that Jesus isn’t where he
used to be in our life it can often be traced back to carelessness.  Do you remember in the book of Revelation
John is reading letters to the seven churches of Asia that he had received from
Christ in a vision.  And to the church in
Ephesus these scary words are written: Revelation 2:4 “But I
have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”  In the NKJV it reads
this way, Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless
I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
The Christ
followers in Ephesus didn’t love Christ
the way they once had and that happens, if we were to be truthful today the
flames of that love might not be as hot as they once were.  And that happens for the same reason it
happens in other relationships, we take things for granted and get
careless.  We do things that we would
never have done when we were dating or courting or in the first few years of
marriage.
And in our
relationship with Christ, when we first started to follow “The Jesus Way” we were hungry for his word,
wanted to be in church at every opportunity, wanted to be around other Christ
followers and wanted to talk to Jesus on a regular basis.  But then life stepped in and we became
careless in our church attendance, our prayer life our bible reading and who we
were spending our time with.  And before
long it could be said about us as it was about the Peter when Jesus was on his
way to the cross, Matthew 26:58 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance . . .
But no matter the
reason, ultimately what happened that day in Jerusalem was a Result of Choices they Made    Mary and Joseph probably wouldn’t think that way; they would say they didn’t choose to lose Jesus but they did. 
Because they chose to assume that Jesus was with them, because they made
the decision to not check with the other person. 
Listen up, this is
important.  Just because it wasn’t an intentional decision on their behalf it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t Mary and
Josephs’ fault.  It doesn’t matter how you slice it they were the adults and he was the kid,
they were supposed to make sure that he was with them. It wasn’t the twelve year old’s job to make sure he was where he was supposed to be, it was the
parents.
We live in a
society that we like to think that some things aren’t anyone’s fault, that’s just the way it happened.  I
heard someone talking about a car accident their daughter had and another
person asked “Whose fault was it?” to which the first man replied “It was nobody’s fault, it was an accident.”  It might not have
been intentional, it may have been an accident but it was still someone’s fault. Unless the ground in front of her suddenly opened up and
swallowed her car or a meteorite landed on top of her car it was probably
somebody’s fault.   You see, I think that we get faultless and
blameless mixed up.
For example, I tend
to be a bit of a klutz, if you had invited us over for tea and cookies and
served me tea in your great grandmother’s fine china
and I accidentally set my cup too close to the edge of the coffee table and it fell on
the floor and broke you might say it was nobody’s fault but that would be incorrect. 
I might be blameless in the sense that I didn’t mean for it to happen but it was still my fault for putting the cup
too close to the edge.  And to a certain
degree if you knew me you would have to say you were at least partially to
fault because you didn’t serve me out of plastic or
stainless steel.
If your
relationship with Jesus isn’t what it used
to be it is because of choices you have made and decisions you have made on how
to lead your life and what would be a priority for you.  I love the story and tell it often about the
old farmer and his wife driving along in the pickup and she asks “How come we don’t sit all
cuddled up like we used to?”  To which the farmer replied “I ain’t moved.” 
And here is the
reality, if you find yourself further away from Christ than you once were, he
ain’t moved.
Jesus didn’t run away from Mary and Joseph, he didn’t leave them behind they left him behind. 
And now here is the good news, You Can Choose to Come Back to Jesus  Mary and Joseph could
have chosen to keep going.  They could
have rationalized that it was too much of a problem to travel back to
Jerusalem; they were already too far away to go back, it wasn’t that far to
home, Joseph had business he had to attend to at home and besides they had
other kids. 
But they didn’t choose to leave him behind
they went back to find him.  And it took
time and energy and tears but they found him.
What will it take for you to get back to where
you were in our relationship with Christ? 
To rediscover your first love?   I
don’t know, but you do?  Like any
relationship your relationship with God requires work and effort the question
is: is that a commitment you are willing to make?  And only you can answer that question.  
But here are a couple of suggestions, the best
place to find Jesus is still in His Father’s house, that would be
church.  Take time to talk to him, that’s prayer and
let him talk to you, that’s reading His word, the Bible and being obedient to his
commandments.