Blessed are those ...
Jesus promises to bless those who believe.
That sounds a bit trivial but there's nothing trivial about it. Jesus calls this blessing eternal life. Jesus burst from the tomb so he could share his resurrection life with you.
Of course, we can struggle to receive this blessing. That's nothing new. The Bible tells us about Thomas who was a disciple of Jesus, but who found that he couldn't believe the things that his friends were telling him. The stories of people seeing the nail-pierced hands of Jesus made no sense to him. He could not believe and he would not believe until he had seen what they had seen. Thomas needed to see for himself the nail-pierced hands and the marks in the side For Thomas the resurrection had not happened until it happened to him personally.
You and I are not going to get the same experience that Thomas had, but this story encourages us to be like Thomas. Jesus can give us the sign that we need. He can make the resurrection happen for us, personally. John's gospel says that Jesus gave many signs to many people and most of them aren't in the Bible, simply because there wasn't enough room. Every sign was different. Jesus cared for his friends and he revealed himself to them. He cares for us too.
Thomas believed in the resurrection of Jesus because he saw what he thought he needed to see. Jesus says that those who believe without seeing are blessed. Jesus can do many different signs. He still does. If you seek him you will find him. Or perhaps better, he will find you. And that means eternal life.
This Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Bring your faith and your doubts. Come as honestly as Thomas did. Jesus can give you the sign that you need.
Seeing Good Friday Clearly
Good Friday is a day to look carefully. It's a day of immense sadness but there is much more to it than that.
It's the day when a dying man asked another dying man to remember him when he comes as king.
It's the day a Roman centurion heard a crucified man shouting, and praised God for doing the impossible.
It's the day a good man chose to honour the death of another good man.
It's the day women went to prepare spices and perfumes, little knowing what they were preparing for.
You don't have to wait for Easter Sunday to praise God. but if you get Good Friday you will be ready to celebrate on Sunday.
Please, if you are able, join us for worship at 10:00am this Friday.
Jesus lived in enemy occupied country. His people had had enough. They read the ancient scriptures and looked for the Son of David who would save them from their plight. When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday, the crowds cry 'Save us!'*. Surely this is the conquering king, coming into the capital city to rescue his people.
But Jesus doesn't play ball. Soon Jesus will hear the words 'save us' again, but this time as part of a hurl of insults from a crucified man who thinks that Jesus has let him down. Jesus is on the cross next to him.
I find that Jesus often won't play ball with me. I know what I want him to do but he has other ideas. I find that he is still the king who rides on a donkey, who tells us to put away our weapons of war. He is still the one asking for a house of prayer rather than a den of bandits. Still the one who believes in the resurrection to eternal life. The one who tells us that if we want to be great in his kingdom we must be servant of all. The one who tells us to love our enemies. The one who responds to our cry of 'save us' in ways we could not have imagined.
I urge you to go deep with Jesus this Easter. Read the gospels. Let Jesus speak to you from our ancient texts. Or you too may end up like the bandit who thought Jesus had let him down. Focus on him this Easter.
* Hosanna = Save us!
You are a leader
Leaders are people who set an example. If anyone is copying you, then you are a leader.
We are looking for leaders who set an example that is worth following: people who want to serve, people who care for others, people who want to be an example more than they want to be the boss, people who don't mind if others get the credit, people who will be worthy of a gold medal on the day that the Lord Jesus is revealed.*
If you know someone like that, learn from them. Learn from their character. Try to imitate it. Don't waste your time trying to copy examples that are not worth following. That's the way you become a godly leader.
Good leaders are self-controlled and alert. They know how easy it is to slip away from the Lord. They know that they are in a daily spiritual battle which they do not want to lose.
I thank God for the many people who have led me. Some were or are officially 'leaders' in the church. Some were pastors or elders. Others had no official leadership position, but they drew me towards a closer relationship with the Lord. They cared. They loved. I am so grateful to God for them. And for those who set me the example that encourages me to lead today.
Don't try to become a leader: you already are one. Instead, let God get to grips with your character. There's a gold medal to be won.
More about this on Sunday.
(* When Peter writes about a crown of glory he means the first prize for winning a race. 1 Peter 5:4)
This week the Bible tells us that above all we are to love one another deeply.
Love is always the main thing; the Bible tells us this again and again. The words 'above all' and 'deeply' make it clear that this is our priority.
Here's how it works: if something is loving it is good; if it is not loving then it is not good. It really is that simple.
If someone wants to love and care then we as a church can safely partner with them. It doesn't matter much whether or not they believe the things about God that we do. They are our friends. If some people do not want to love then we are going to need to keep some distance. We should keep loving them, as far as we can, but we cannot be partners with people who do not love.
There are many around us who do not bear the name of Christ like we do, but they are good people. I thank God for many people like this.
1 Peter 4 gives a list of behaviours that we are to avoid. They are on this list because they are not loving. We are then told to use whatever gifts we have to serve others. The one gift that is singled out is hospitality, the ability to welcome others and show God's love to them.
And if it hurts? Peter says we are to commit ourselves to our faithful creator and continue to do good. More about this on Sunday.