Do you see the Harvest?
If Jesus said, ‘the Harvest is plentiful, is great’ might he just be right? I
sometimes wonder if it’s just that we don’t see the harvest, not that it isn’t
there (you could say, ‘Lift up your eyes unto the fields rather than to the
hills!’). You see Jesus also said, ‘the Kingdom of God is near (or among) you’!
He might just be right again! And the Kingdom of God is a beautiful,
grace-filled, peaceful place of blessing. If you have found Christ, you will at
times have seen just how true that is, how real that is. But if you’re anything
like me you may also have frequently lost sight of that reality!
I think Jesus is saying, there is a deep thirst for the Lord and his love out there, for his peace and healing, for reconciliation. These are the things we as human beings long for; and yes, in his Kingdom all these things are found! They are what Jesus came to release into our world by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Until the last day, yes we will indeed ‘see as through a glass darkly’ to quote from St Paul’s famous writings on love in 1 Corinthians 13. But these things of his Kingdom are deeply real nonetheless, and when we catch sight of them, when those we seek to bring Christ’s love to catch sight of them, they are all they promised to be and more. So how do we share the peace and blessings of Jesus’ Kingdom? This is our question for today as we hear how
Jesus sent out 72 of his disciples to go ahead of him.
To believe or not to believe…..
Now there’s an interesting thing, ‘the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah…..’, well I’d be interested anyway!
He’s come and is waiting to speak to Gideon son of Joash (he of the putting out of the fleece to test the Lord, if you know the story). Gideon is going to be called to rescue the people of Israel from under ‘the Midianites’ who are continually harassing the people of God; and Gideon (called Mighty Hero by the angel – “yea right!” he may think) is undoubtedly going to doubt whether this is at all possible, and certainly whether he’s the man for the job.
And then there’s ‘doubting’ Thomas, who despite all the other disciples saying they’d seen the Risen Lord that first Easter, famously says, “I won’t believe it unless I see for myself the nail wounds in his hands…..” And like Gideon’s angel, the Lord Jesus comes to see Thomas. Jesus has heard what Thomas has said…… Both men are finally persuaded and set off to do the very things the Lord is calling them too – Gideon to free the people from the Midianites, Thomas by tradition to bring the Good News of Jesus to the people of India. I find this very encouraging. The Lord knows us doubts and all, he knows who we are, how we are, what makes us tick – and it doesn’t put him off! No, He comes, explains, calls, says have faith in Me after all, and that’s OK with him. Yes, as Jesus finishes by saying to Thomas, “You’ve seen me and believed, but blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” But he comes to bless and use those of us who doubt too – in spades!
Stand Firm in this Grace
Over the summer, we have studied and reflected upon Peter’s letter to scattered Christians in first-century Asia Minor, and have come to realise that it has a truly contemporary ring. His teaching and encouragement to those early Christians is still relevant to us twenty first century Christians in Oldfield Park. It is a letter full of certainty about our inheritance and our home, pointing us to the day when Christ will be revealed in glory. Time and again he reminds us of the fundamental truths of the way of Jesus. Peter gives us encouragement that God is with us and that any hardship we suffer will not overwhelm us. Above all, we need to experience more of God’s grace and have our trust in him deepened. We do not know what lies in store for us in the times ahead, but we do know that God is faithful and his compassion and protection will surround us. Peter started his letter by saying, ‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance,’  and ends it by saying, ‘Stand firm in this grace’
 (this week’s one liner!). 1 Peter 5.12  1 Peter 1.2
A message from Richard White on his first Sunday with us!
My name is Richard and I’m the new Team Rector down at St Michaels. As I’m preaching this Sunday with you Robert suggested I might write something for your notice sheet and website. So here are some musings: 1 Peter 5:3 (The Passion Translation) ‘Don’t be controlling tyrants but lead others by your beautiful examples to the flock.’ What does it look like to lead not by directing people or wielding power over them, but by living as a beautiful example? For Peter to have written this, he must surely have witnessed it in the life of the Great Shepherd King, Jesus himself. Jesus had a strategy for filling the whole earth with the glory of God, and it was through imitation. Living a life worth imitating is at the heart of Jesus’ discipling culture: followers of Jesus modelling the life of Jesus to others. Jesus models to us the kind of relationship we are to have with each other in the church. It’s a ripple affect. Paul called the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ (1 Cor 11:1), not as a overbearing dictator, but as a spiritual father. This leads to two key questions we need to ask ourselves regularly as imitators of Christ: 1. Who is pouring into you? 2. Who are you pouring into?
Vicar’s thought for 8th Sept 2019
A couple of years ago, some of us had the privilege of being in the same room as an older North Korean Christian woman who had finally escaped from her country. She had been through unimaginable suffering for being a Christian – imprisoned, made to stand naked in the freezing cold all day, and many other tortures. At the end of that freezing day, she heard her Lord say to her, “My dear woman, you have suffered all that for me, you are precious beyond measure”. I might have said, “Well, thanks for that Lord, if I were that precious might you not have saved me from this freezing day?!” But no, she just radiated a simple beauty, joy and thankfulness. In fact she was like a bit like a child, laughing as she freely ran around taking pictures of us all worshipping! St Peter wrote, ‘It is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!’  You see we are bearers of His glory, His Name. Let us too keep walking faithfully, listening out for our dear Lord’s voice through it all. For as Jesus said, “No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.”  We cannot see these things, do more than occasionally glimpse the glory, but we bear the name of the one true Messiah.
 1 Peter 4.16  John 10.28-29
Today we start our new series on 1 Peter. Peter specially highlights the great themes of the Christian gospel, It is a letter full of certainty about our inheritance and our home, pointing us to the day when Christ will be revealed in glory and reminding us that ‘the end of all things is near’, but in doing so he is concerned that we also live the life of heaven here and now. We should have our eyes on the horizon, but our boots on our feet!
Living Hope that gives great encouragement and joy
By ‘hope’ Peter does not mean something we merely wish for, or would like to happen in the future. It is much more definite than that. It is our inheritance – our new birthright -preserved for us and indestructible. The hope is of eternal life with God, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It takes real faith to focus on this hope when we are going through periods of struggle and difficulty. Peter is so aware that Christians may well have to face all kinds of sorrow, yet believes this need not defeat our faith; it can refine it. Peter encourages us to trust in Jesus and to ‘rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy’. 
1 Peter 1.8
The blessing with the greatest reward…. ….is the one attached to persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ! Very strange. Does it mean that those who seriously suffer persecution have some kind of special reward tucked away in heaven that somehow makes it all worthwhile? You might think so, for the reward Jesus mentions is: ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs’. But then Jesus also said that the Kingdom of Heaven is already among you. Perhaps we can experience that Kingdom among us even now, and find that the joy of that Kingdom is far more special than we thought…..? Jesus makes it plain – his Kingdom is the main thing. Rather shockingly he suggests that other things really are much less important (‘Let the dead bury their own dead’ and so on ).
So, what is the cost of following Jesus to you? Perhaps it’s just that lies are told about you? (that’s the one Jesus mentions). I don’t know. We had some moving answers to the question of the cost from our Small Group leaders at a recent session – it’s OK we won’t share them – and they were different for each person. So what do you make of these questions? What is the cost to you of following Jesus in your time and place? What do you think others will say when they come to hear about the cost of going Jesus’ way? I can only say there is no other way as amazing as Jesus’ way, full of his life, his joy, his peace – in whatever circumstances. As St Peter put it, ‘In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus’ 
[ ]1 Luke 9.57-62  1 Peter 5.10
Look at this!
Just one seed, yes one seed, produces a flower head with over 20 petals (I tried to count!); and well, how many seeds do you reckon!? (answers please!)
Today’s theme is seed planting – one of Jesus’s own favourites. For the truth is unless we plant seeds nothing grows – it’s no use leaving the seed bag on the shelf! Today we celebrate the raising of £300 by our young people over the last many months to go via the locally based charity ‘Send-a-Cow’ (welcome Alan!). It’s in support of 10 African families to help get going with farming that is sustainable for them. We think it’s also a visual illustration of a very different kind of seed planting that we all need as human beings. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.”  But happen it does! His apostle St Paul also wrote, ‘Remember – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.’  The true fruits of God’s Kingdom are beautiful, ‘love, joy, peace…..’  . Jesus Christ came to bring us new life, new hope, new fruit. Those African families will be planting seed – will you plant in Jesus’s Kingdom, in his ground, his seed in your life?
Mark 4.26-27  2 Corinthians 9.6  read a whole list in Galatians 5.22-23
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God’  Quite a calling!
When asked what someone really wants to pray for, one of the most frequent answers is ‘Peace’. People may mean everything from world peace, through peace in their relationships, to peace within themselves – there are so many areas of life where there is no peace! But almost weekly at our Communion services we pray, ‘Let us pursue all that makes for peace and builds up our common life.’ I’m not sure how seriously we take that as we say it! Sure, the practicalities and dynamics of being peacemakers are tricky! (sometimes to say the least!) But the Christian message is at its deepest root one of peace and reconciliation – of all that makes for peace. St Paul wrote that ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.’ And that ‘God has given us the ministry of reconciliation’ . And Jesus beautifully explained how if we do this we will ‘truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.’ This desire for peace is quite simply on the Father’s heart. And if we will learn to find out what it takes, and by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit practice and pursue it, we will follow the very calling of His heart.
 The 7th Beatitude from Matthew 5.9  Romans 14.19 (and the Common Worship Prayer Book!)  2 Corinthians 5.18-19  Luke 6.35
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ 
The interesting thing is that so many people say that they want to see God but they don’t know how. Here, in Matthew, Jesus tells us that those who are pure in their hearts will see God.
However the problem is often no one understands what being Pure in Heart means.
Jesus had made it clear in other places we have pure hearts when we put Jesus at the centre of our lives and treat others as He would and as He does treat us. It’s not about making sure we look good to others, or taking part in the rituals of church, or even being seen to do good works. No it is about what is important deep in our lives.
So today’s question is, what is your heart centred on, is it family, career, hobby, money, enjoyment, something else or as Jesus said – Him!?
I have found that when my heart is pure, aligned with, centred on, Jesus then I see and hear God around me and in others and when I let my heart slip away then I lose that sight.
 Matthew 5 8
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy .
The Bible is packed full of mercy, of undeserved mercy to boot. The Lord God shows himself time and time again as the one who loves beyond anything we expect, or have any right to expect. And giving mercy is costly, it means bearing some of the pain ourselves (but then just think of the Cross!). One of Jesus’ key teachings was to show mercy, given that the amount of mercy each of us receives from his Father in Heaven is always way beyond the mercy we manage to show others! But nonetheless, we are called to show it. And if you think about this Beatitude carefully, it is a bit surprising – it half suggests that those who don’t show mercy to others won’t receive mercy themselves. Perhaps it is can’t, not won’t!? Someone wrote, ‘The truth is, if we do not show mercy, we are unlikely to be able to receive it’. Put simply, Jesus taught that we should be merciful, because God is merciful to us. He always has been! Now this is not just theory! This is the first of the Beatitudes to call for direct action, not just about the attitude of our hearts (although that’s vital – for it is from our hearts that all our actions spring). So when we hear Jesus telling stories about forgiving debts, or helping the wounded by the roadside, we start to ask where can I show mercy? Certainly not because we’re better than anyone else, but because we know what it is to receive God’s amazing love and mercy towards us. And I would like to suggest that if you’ve not yet discovered that amazing love and mercy of God towards you, now may be the time! And after that, as Christians, we are called to ‘go and do likewise’ .
1 The 5th Blessing (Beatitude) from Matthew 5.1-12
2 The last line from the parable of the Good Samaritan
This week the church has been full of excited children from our local infant and junior schools (and thank you to all who have helped!). They’ve come to ‘Explore Pentecost’ – a series of investigations into why Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit is so important to Christians. And you have a chance this morning to join in those explorations a bit for yourselves! To be honest, I was a bit uncertain as to whether there was enough to explore! How wrong could I have been! The week has been a refreshing window into the amazing extent of the work of God’s Holy Spirit, now spread right across the world: The Good News that has spread so far and wide, the significant changes in Jesus’s disciples, the courage love and compassion the Spirit enables, the shared life of Christians, the sheer joy and hope (even though we often have to wait!), the deep peace that the Spirit brings in an often difficult world – I could go on! 5 people from Ascension also got confirmed at St Barnabas this week, committing themselves to being part of this movement of God’s Holy Spirit and asking for His strength to do this. You may long for God to work in your life too! Good, let’s long! And today, let’s all pray that we too may discover, experience, explore more of the power of Pentecost!