Sunday, September 27, 2009


Let us pray

Heavenly Father,
I pray that you would take my words and speak through them
Take our minds and think through them
Take our hearts mend them, mould them and set them on fire with love for you
Through Jesus Christ our Lord

I wonder have you ever found it difficult to find someone who has authority to solve a problem that you have had.

I am sure you could Identify with this scenario.

A household appliance breaks down ? you have to phone a helpline

You make a telephone call ? you get an automated response -
press one if the problem is about a part,
press 2 for our opening times
Press 3, 4, 5

then you make a decision and then you have another selection, you scream down the phone I JUST WANT TO SPEAK TO A PERSON.

When you do eventually get to speak to someone ? the advice they give you doesn't really help. Or you might be lucky and find someone on the end of the phone who knows exactly what to do and the problem is sorted there and then. Or perhaps they are able to send someone to replace or mend the product.

It is important to get through to the right person, with the right expertise and the right authority.

The Gospel reading this evening is one of the many miracles in the Bible, when someone is healed when they are set free from the ailment which had troubled them for such a long time.

Jesus is the one with the authority to heal. Why? Simply because of who his is ? ie the Son of God ? the man who is paralysed does not need to see anyone else. He is the ultimate authority on the health of individuals.

Jesus' diagnosis of the man's condition ? from his knowledge ? is that he needs forgiveness of sins. He needs to be restored not only to physical but also spiritual health.

This story is set in Matthew's Gospel as a extension of what has gone before ? Jesus is a teacher as seen in chapters 5-7 with the sermon on the mount, Chapter 8 we see Jesus doing lots of healings - a leper, the centurions servant and Peter's Mother in law. So the reader / hearer of this gospel knows That Jesus has the power & authority to heal.

Then we see some more surprising miracles ? Jesus has the power to calm the storm (authority over nature) and to cast out demons (authority over evil).

From these the reader/hearer of the gospel knows ?
if you need someone healed you call Jesus,
If you need a storm to cease ? you call Jesus,
If you need demons cast out you call Jesus.

The Gospel passage this evening goes further and this causes the problems with the Jewish authorities
we see another aspect to the authority of Jesus ? That is his authority over sin ? he has the power to forgive sin.

This was a bold new claim from this radical rabbi ? Only God has the power to forgive sin and this guy is going around healing but his words are cutting deep into the heart of the Jewish Heirarchy who know about sin and how sin needs sorted out ? by use of temple & sacifice.

This morning, reflecting upon the epsitle reading from James the rector reminded us on the importance we continue to place on the ministry of healing in this church, of how we are following Jesus' example here in St. Columba's as we pray for the sick, as we call upon Jesus to heal.

We are doing what this lame man's friends were doing ? bringing him to Jesus so that he might heal him. In This reading He not only heals physically but also deals with the sin within

What we see in the gospel narrative is what God is doing about the whole problem ? Jesus has the authority to heal, he has the authority to forgive sin and to clean up the mess we have got ourselves into as the human race.

A question might be legitimately raised as to why does he not use his authority and sort out all our problems with one fell swoop? That is an extremely important question ? to which there is no easy answer, especially if you are going through the trauma of illness or seeing the effects of sin.

What we do know is that God works with individual's not imposing himself but asking each to respond to him in their own time in their own way. It is God's will for each of us to be whole. If that is how the designer sees us ? then, if we have a problem we do need to return to God, we do need to call upon him who does have that authority ? to heal, to proclaim forgiveness, to see us restored.

The authority to proclaim forgiveness, healing depends upon us asking, seeking it.

In our world today the issue of forgiveness is huge ? there are so many people walking around with burdens of past regret, of things they have done, things they have said which have spiralled out of control, things that have left undone which are crippling them. With physical ailments bodies can heal, but with sin so often it is internalised, only we know about we have done. Jesus in displaying his authority over sin shows us a way to heal internally, to get rid of the sin which so easily entangles.

In each service we have in this church, we confess sin which does separate us from Good and we receive the words of absolution, we turn away from it and return resovled to do better.

I wonder if we were to be honest tonight, are there things which are crippling us, things which we need to be sorted out, have we heard the automated response to a generic problem but desire the touch of a personal saviour, creator, healer and redeemer in our families, with our friends and each one of us as individuals.

God's heart for each of us is to be made whole

From the gospels we can say
if you need someone healed you call Jesus,
If you need a storm to cease ? you call Jesus,
If you need demons cast out you call Jesus.
and if you need sins forgiven and assurance of God's presence ? You call on Jesus.

That is the center of all that we are as Christians.

There may be times when all our energy is sapped, when we are frustrated that our prayer is not getting through, when we are not healed, when our situation seems desperate ? we are called to persevere, we are then called to keep asking, keep seeking.

Let us keep praying, keep rejoicing. One of the things I have been very conscious of over the last week or so, as I have been nursing my arm, is the frustration, when part of the body is hurting and how it affects what we can and can't do. If there are people who are hurting in your family, in this parish family, in our friendship groups we need to show them the healer,

One of my home Town of Banbridge's favorite sons ? Joseph Scriven put it like this in the famous Hymn

What a friend we have in Jesus
all our sins and griefs to bear
what a privelege to carry everything to God in prayer

Are we weak and heavy laden
Cumbered with a load of care
Jesus only is our refuge
take it to the Lord in Prayer

I Finish off where I began this service with the words of Psalm 124:7 Our Help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

A sermon preached in St. Columba's, Knock, 27/9/09 at Evening Prayer

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009


Bible Texts

The Epistle Reading - James 3: 1-12

The Gospel Reading - Mark 8: 27-38

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O lord our strength and our redeemer Amen

Way back in the mid-90's Boyzone recorded a song ... Words

The major lyrics are - "It's only words and words are all I have to take your heart away"

Words are so powerful with them we can change our lives and the lives of those around about us.

Take for example - When a man asks a woman to marry him - and she says yes then both of their lives are changed - one word

another example when a jury brings back a verdict in a court case - guilty or not guilty - there are ramifications to these words for the person on trial.

Dramatic changes happen when words are spoken. In History we know what happened when Martin Luther King said ... "I have a dream..."

There are also many instances when words are destructive - when they build up tensions and barriers rather than tear them down. When words are spoken in haste, without thought for consequences. Much suffering is caused when words are not used appropriately.

Throughout my life I have met many people who were told as young people that they were useless and good for nothing sometimes by teachers or by parents or bosses- those wounds have stayed with them right into adulthood and have shaped their relationships. They have had to undergo a period of search for the truth that they are actually good for something, that they were created for a purpose and have something to contribute to society.

In our world today, Christians have so much to contribute to those around us in terms of our words, how we interact with people. In our epistle reading this morning from James there is a warning about the use of words.

A few images are used here, firstly the bit which controls the horse, you are in control of the whole animal with a small piece of metal, secondly the rudder of a ship, point the rudder in the right direction and the ship follows - These are quite positive images - get the words rights and the rest of the body will follow.

But then James points us to a destructive image, that of a small fire setting the place ablaze, we just have to look at the destructive power of fire in the USA, Greece or Australia in recent years to know how powerful something so small can be. James says that the tongue, the smallest part of the body is difficult, near impossible to tame, full of deadly poison. So often something said begins to spread and when it does great harm is caused.

James does not hold back in verse nine - "with the tongue we bless the Lord and father and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing"

The tongue can be used for great things or it can be used for sheer evil, it can be used to encourage or it can be used to rebuke, it can be used to build up relationships or it can be used to tear them down.

In our gospel reading this morning we see at the turning point in marks gospel when Peter (my hero!) the one who got it right sometimes and got is wrong often- used his tongue for Good as he made his confession of Jesus as Messiah ... the high point

went on, when Jesus explained what that meant, to rebuke Jesus ... Peter had put his foot in it.

Some of the things which the disciples did were stupid ... Some of you know that I am learning to drive... I have had about 10 lessons now ... I have been taught how to:
- Parallel Park
- Emergency Stop
- change gear
- Reverse into a parking bay
- Reverse round a corner

However, see coming down the Dual carriageway and stopping that the traffic lights and getting going again, I do stupid things, I sometimes forget what I am doing, and conk out, the car stalls ... even forgetting to take the handbrake off

Peter the disciple did do things rights but he also did things wrong

In our Christian lives we are called into a process of learning ... that is Discipleship
We are also called into a process of sanctification ... meaning that we are called to change, to clean up our actions and our words, to be more like Jesus. to be transformed.

In a recent study, it might surprise people to know that women speak more than men... in a average day the average male speaks 6,073 words, females speak 8,805 words.

The question is what are we going to do with our words, are we adding to the destructive flames which destroy people, which build up barriers or are we, as we are called to do as people living with the Holy Spirit in us - going to let our words and our actions be glorifying to God, displaying the fruit of the spirit

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self Control?

Yes we are a work in progress, of course we are - But God is challenging us, as people who believe in him and who are trusting him to live out that fruit - to put the sinful nature behind us and live for him.

If we say, as we do each week in the creed that Jesus is Lord, and we pray the prayer at the end of the communion service that we are living sacrifices - our words and our actions do have to come under the Lordship of Christ not just on a Sunday but every single day of the week.

Let us Pray

Sermon preached on Sunday 13th September 2009 at St. Columba's Parish Church, Knock 1030 Holy Communion Service.