Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sermon - The greatest Man. Heb 2.5-18

This sermon was preached on Sunday 26th February 2014 in Church of the Resurrection in Blarney. This is the Second in our current Hebrews Series 

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
Last Sunday we gazed upon the Glorious Son of God … in all his splendour … above all powers, above all thrones, we recalled how all creation worships him … seated on the throne.

Today we get another view of Christ … the one which we remember at Christmas… the one who is born, lived and died and rose again for us. The Incarnate Son … the God who is with us.

This is a dense text this morning … Take a look at Hebrews 2:5-8 – in this Jesus has been given the crown of Glory and honour … and every thing is subject to him … but not all is as it should be yet

This is pointing to living in the inbetween stages of the kingdom now and the kingdom not yet.

This passage is dealing with the realistic world …  concerning that bit when the rubber hits the road, when the painful days come, when there is pain and suffering, when the medical tests come back positive … when we were hoping for the opposite … highlighting that life wont be the same again.

When we need to be able to turn to God and get the confident answer that he’s there … he’s been there, he’s here right now and he’ll always be there.  So let’s see the reasons for this confidence.

The word confidence … appears in Hebrews so many times … There are things which knock our confidence … things we encounter, challenges we face and all sorts of experiences we have.

The same was true for the hearers of this letter … things were there to knock their confidence … people, events and culture around them but the writter is calling them back to basics … and the basics have not changed in 2000 years

The writer of this letter wants to explain that despite living in the in-between times we do know that Jesus has been effective & things have changed forever.

There are a few we can look to as reasons for the God plan of the incarnation from this passage .

We’re looking at the Effects of Jesus coming among his people … Basically its the So what ? of Christmas

This Passage suggests 4 Things …

1. Liberate us from Fear of Death … Death and taxes cannot be avoided … its part of the human experience. Jesus is the one was the one who tasted death for everyone. This is the good news we proclaim on easter day … at funerals and at bedsides.

But there’s more to this … It doesn’t say that he’s liberated us from Death … but from the fear of death – part of the whole restoration of Christ is there in verse 15 “Free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

This fear of death causes huge issues for humans …
  • We fear a real loss of control
  • We fear incompleteness and failure. Especially for those who have enjoyed life and sought certain achievements, whether personal or professional, life can hold a great deal of joy and fulfillment. There exists a stark finality to death
  • It leads us to place we’re unfamiliar about.

That’s’s the fear … but let’s look at the Christian Hope …

Elisabeth Elliot tells of an occasion in the jungles of South America when, as she and her native guide were traveling a primitive path, her trail suddenly dropped into a ravine. The only means across was a fallen tree. The guide nimbly jumped onto the tree and started across. Elliot, who confesses she was mortified at the prospect of falling, hesitated.

Her guide, perceiving her apprehension, came back across, held out his hand, grasped hers, and led her across safely. The stability of one who had obvious mastery of the situation gave her the needed confidence. Paul tells us that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), an agricultural image that speaks of the initial produce of a crop to ripen. As the first to come through death, Jesus gives us confidence and stability as we face our own
Our sense of incompleteness and failure is counterbalanced with hope of an eternal future—a future bought by Jesus’ sacrificial death

2.     to make us holy through the forgiveness of sins
The implications of  the incarnation in this passage is … the making the way for us to be Holy through the forgiveness of sins. Sometimes we’re so familiar with this that we don’t listen to it … Its what I say sunday by sunday but actually when we get our heads around it … something changes

And this is huge … all of us at times feel guilty … we know we’ve messed up … we know that we’ve done and said things we shouldn’t have and we’ve not done things we should have. There are times that we’d just love to have a clean sheet to start over again.

That clean sheet is something which we have through Jesus’ work on the cross … That new heart is possible. and we are called to simply be part of that

3. The Destruction of the Devil

We see in this passage … that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

By dying he destroyed death and by rising he restored life.

Again this is the in-between times … Kingdom now and future. The devil is still at work … but Christ is above all things and he is in control… we see evil is still at work … The war is over but there is still those skirmishes.

But we see through Jesus’ ministry how evil was cast out and how things changed forever.

4th Things is that the Jesus is here to help us
This help comes in a number of ways …

v16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.

v18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

This help that we get from God is practical … its what we need and its from expereince.

Today we’re thinking in this service of what we need, of the thing we’re facing day and daily … and we’re asking God simply to meet us where we’re at … in our fraility, in our struggles, in the issues which face us.

Healing and wholeness is something which we all struggle with from time to time sometimes day and daily… whether it be health concerns, family issues, our own faith or whatever.

God is close to us … closer than a brother … and we’ve been grafted into his family… as we catch a glimpse of what this one relationship with the almighty does then it gets really exciting

Let’s re-cap

·         to liberate us from the fear of death,
·         to destroy the devil,
·         to make us holy through the forgiveness of sins
·         to give us help,

And that’s what God is up to in the incarnation and in our lives to this day …

And its not just theory but a new reality which we as the church declare to the world.

This is the Gospel in a nutshell … but the challenge is we’re called to respond to this

An Illustration … Climbing rope … trusting it … you’re only going to trust it by using it & putting it into practice … trying it.
Time and again Christ has been trusted and we can see that he is faithful … becuase of who he is and what he’s done.

Are you going to trust him? in the small things and in the big things?

Are we prepared to trust his words? are we prepared to trust him to see us through our fear of Death, trust him to forgive our sin, trust him to help us in all things, and trust him that he’s defeated evil?


Trust him that he’s given us a new identity as sons and daughters of God.
Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin,
Jesus puts himself in the same family circle when he says,
Even I live by placing my trust in God.
And yet again,
I’m here with the children God gave me.

So If he says this … and he means it … we are CHILDREN OF GOD!
As the chorus of Praise my soul says …
We are … “Ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven

Sunday 26th  January - The greatest Man. Heb 2.5-18
Big Idea: Jesus became a real human being and suffered death so that he could destroy deaths power and free us from it’s slavery and reconcile us to God. (Jesus divinity).

Jesus has been tempted, in every way, and can help those who are tempted (2.18). Struggling with suffering? Jesus the author of our faith was ‘made perfect through suffering’ (2.10).

·         Why would verses 8-9 be comforting to suffering Christians?
·         What stops be from believing that nothing is outside the sovereign control of Jesus? What can help me rest in this truth?
·         How should a Christian view of Death be different from others, according to this passage?
·         V17 – In what way is the word Brother a helpful term for understanding Jesus and the relationship Christians have with Him? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Homily

Tonight, It was a pleasure to have been asked to give the Homily at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in The Roman Catholic Church in Blarney

Readings Isaiah 57:14-19; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-17; Mark 9:33-41

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

Introduction (Giving thanks)
I wish to begin my thoughts tonight … the way St. Paul begins his letter which we've Just read … by giving thanks to God before the gathered church.

… I want to give thanks to God for the great relationships there are in this village … warm, sincere and practical relationships in this community between the 2 churches in the square. It has been a great pleasure to work with so many people from this church, Rathpeacon and Whitechurch in the past year and a bit since I arrived .

… I also want to thank Fr Bill for his  welcome and working relationship over this time … we’ve been to many community events and also working together at various services.
This is, from what I gather the first week of prayer for CU  service in a long time in this village and something which I believe and hope will become something which will become part of our shared witness in the village.

The question before us this evening has Christ been divided?

We are living in a complicated and confusing world – some of the norms which we took for granted for generations are being questioned and worked out in this generation. And we as Christians grapple with these together… Technological, social, ethical and political issues are being wrestled with day and daily and the church does have things to say in the public square.

St. Paul writes  …  “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”

The psalmist puts it another way – “where brothers and sisters dwell together in unity, there God is blessed”

There is something extremely powerful happens when people come together… when we are happy with who we are … content in our own Identity and ready to work with others as neighbours and friends and to learn from one another.

We are called together to have Unity in diversity … we are different and we should be able to celebrate our differences but also be able to work practically together for the sake of the gospel of Christ. There are fantastic things being done right around this community …

… for seniors there is the love that’s shown with meals on wheels, the work with those who are suffering in many ways, mums and toddlers, Bible Studies, work with the homeless, education … none of these ministries are the same … that’s the diversity, the unity comes in the purpose … that is serving Christ day and daily.

Now, There is something inside each of us which seeks to compare ourselves to each other … how much better we are than the other … we see this in the Gospel reading … That even within the 12 Disciples … the saints there was bickering and trying to compare each other

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

As brothers and sisters we need to be content  and secure in own identities … but also celebrate and be thankful for the others.

We see in the disciples unique individuals … each with their own gifts and abilities … their own callings and destinies … each sent to different places and to meet different people.

The churches here in Blarney have been placed side by side … we worship the same God and we’ve been called to the same mission … to teach the word of God, to build each other up, and worship God through sacraments prayers, and service.

We do this in different, unique ways day and daily … and all of us are called to be part of this serving Christ. This is the call to common mission.

It is great that this is coming both from grass roots … we’re doing these things but its also reassuring that this is coming also from the leadership of our churches. 

In June 2013 the Archbishop of Canterbury from the Anglican Communion met Pope Francis at the Vatican. In his remarks at this meeting Pope Francis said
“We share many ideas” on the topics of economics, social justice and peace, …  we Christians bring peace and grace as a treasure to be offered to the world, but these gifts can bear fruit only when Christians live and work together in harmony.- See more at:

Also just this morning Pope Francis, speaking on this very question – is Christ divided, at his public audience said the following

" We know that Christ has not been divided; yet we must sincerely recognize that our communities continue to experience divisions which are a source of scandal and weaken our witness to the Gospel.
 In reproaching the Corinthians for their divisions, Paul reminds them to rejoice in the great spiritual gifts which they have received. His words encourage us to rejoice in the gifts God has given to other Christians,  gifts which we can receive from them for our enrichment.

To be able to do this calls for humility, discernment and constant conversion.

As we reflect on Paul’s teaching during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, may we be confirmed, together with all Christ’s followers, in our pursuit of holiness and fidelity to the Lord’s will. (  

So Taking all of this on board … the teaching from Scripture, the exhortation from our leaders, the practical realities  and the great relationships which we currently enjoy here in Blarney … a cross roads of world culture.

I would love to end with a hope filled picture

… Out on the village square … one day I was sitting where I like to sit … just in front of the old Garda Station and my eyes were drawn to the tree right in the middle of the Square … an Oak tree … a small acorn produced that big tree

Of course we know that is the way of all life … things grow.

As we pray together tonight …  I would hope that we as Christian Churches in Blarney … in this wee village that’s known all over the world … that this time of prayer & hopefully others like it … though small in itself  would indeed be something that would continue to grow … and be a powerhouse for faith and mission in this locality, in this nation and across the world.

Perhaps this week of Prayer for Christian Unity would help us to discover the gifts which Pope Francis speaks about  and also encourage us all  in our pursuit of holiness and fidelity to the Lord’s will.

 Let's pray 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hebrews 1 - Sermon Series (Blarney)

Big Idea: Jesus is God’s greatest revelation, so we must pay more careful attention to the message about Jesus and not drift away.   

 Don’t look anywhere else. Jesus is the real deal , greater than angels, crystals… etc.
Sermon preached at the opening of the sermon series on the book of Hebrews.

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 

Hebrews… Why Hebrews?

  • We’ve been saying that we want Clear Biblical Teaching, relevant to our culture today and also brings together themes from Old and New Testament. 
  • We’ve also been saying that we need to have clear challenge in our teaching about who Jesus is and what he means for us today
  • We also want to encouragement the parish … in our discipleship as well as providing all of us with confidence in our faith.
  • Also we’re covering Hebrews now because … Sunday PM (our Youth Group) are doing it and as a leadership team we wanted to make sure that the whole family of the church were working on the word of God together in this season.

Where we’re at … at the moment
We’re living in confusing times … Financially, Socially, technologically … norms are changing… more people than ever are asking questions as to identity. Our world today is developing faster, communicating more. We’re trying to grapple with all sorts of issues whilst also maintaining links with our past and looking forward to our future.

Hebrews audience
There are many parallels to the days that the book of Hebrews was written. 
The church community, the Christians had undergone a huge shift in their thought process
… Imagine being a Jew  in the 1st Century … you’re content … you’ve got a temple to go to … you know what should be done at a temple and a synagogue, You’ve got a community with leaders, teachers, and friends and family who you’ve grown up with, you know the stories of your history, you know of Creator God, you know he acts in human history. That’s all fine. 
But then you also have encountered this teaching about Jesus, you’ve readily accepted that he is the promised messiah, he’s the one who came from God, who is God and who was born, lived, taught, died, rose and ascended and returning.
You in your mind can accept both of those.

But then there are problems within the church community …There is a growing issue with persecution … your friends are ridiculing you … you are facing persecution from within the Jewish community and from outside …. From Government forces

Then also there are those who have wandered from these teachings … people who have been listening to others … people who do sort of make sense but you know that there’s something not quite right about what they are saying … you just can’t put your finger on it but it doesn’t sit well with you.

So you are confused …
… Do you go back to the familiar… your life the way it was as a Jew (and forget about the Christian stuff) ?
… Do you dabble in the new upstart stuff … the strange things … angels or whatever else
… or Do you stick to the encountered teaching of Jesus?

This confusion is where the writer to the Hebrews is speaking into

Into the text

Well the writer to the Hebrews is at pains to communicate the essential message that Jesus is better …

Basically it’s the familiar message we’re used to hearing with advertisers - The best just got better— It’s not that our previous product was poor. It’s just that the current one is superior.

He’s Better than the Law and the Prophets … Matthew’s Gospel says he’s the fulfilment of them.

He’s Better than anything else… in all creation … because he’s the creator (whether that be the fresh winds, or ancient wisdom of angel teaching, crystals or whatever else people come up with) 
So with that background … Let’s look at how the writer to the Hebrews does communicate this
Verse 1 reminds the hearers what they already know …

He reminds them that God spoke … they have no issue with that … he spoke in many ways

In Genesis we find God speaking directly to Adam, Cain and Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God spoke through a rainbow (to Noah), an angel (to Hagar), dreams (to Joseph), a burning bush (to Moses), (to high priests), a small voice (to Elijah) and a vision in the temple (to Isaiah).

During the final centuries of Old Testament history, God spoke through oracles (Amos), life experiences (Hosea, Jonah, Ezekiel), symbols and symbolic acts (Ezekiel), sermons (Haggai), mystical signs (Zechariah) and by questions and answers (Malachi).

This might have been one of the issues for them … but we are reminded that he also spoke through the son … Who comes before God’s voice speaking to the prophets and also afterwards … in the person of Jesus

We then see in verses 2-3

In Hebrews 1:2-3, our author shines four colored spotlights, as it were, on the Son through whom God has spoken in these last days. In these lights we see him progressively as (1) God’s Son/heir, (2) the divine agent in creation, (3) who shares God’s eternal nature, (4) and who is now enthroned at God’s right hand.

In other words – We’re told … yes this is new, its better and its in line with the past.
Then -  we see that because he’s God’s Son … he’s above anything else … and the argument develops … why would you want to look anywhere else when Jesus who is God’s Son, through whom the world was created, who has made away for eternal life and is sitting at God’s right hand … why would you bother wasting time with other stuff.
Angels, crystals, stones… or whatever else are of the created order.
Do you see the futility in worshipping the created rather than the creator. That’s where this line of thinking is taking us to… The rest of Chapter 1 talks about this

We as readers are asked at the end of Chapter 1  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Basically … angels … aren’t they meant to serve for our sake (sent by God)
To bring us closer to him… when we get any other picture of them then we run into problems.
Angels are postal workers … bringing messages … from the one who sent the message
Imagine getting a message from the President to head up for dinner … You aren’t going to say it’s fantastic … that postman is great … he’s just doing his job … no you’re going to say … the president wants to see me. Why settle for anything other than the person who has sent the message.

Chapter 2 Begins with the warning
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? ….

Basically return to the message – you’ve heard … continue down that path and don’t drift from it.(image of a boat being driven off course slightly by winds)

The rest of the book of Hebrews looks at how this decision not to drift will ensure we stand on a firm foundation. 
 So What? ... Apply it!
None of us here this morning are 1st Century Jews … but all of us have heard the Good News and in some ways have responded to it
Constantly we have those three options

… Do you go back to the  Old ways (and forget about the Christian stuff) ?
… Do you dabble in the new upstart stuff
… or Do you stick with the encountered teaching of Jesus and grow and develop as a disciple?

When we become Christians we clothe ourselves with Christ … we are called to a life of faithfulness, a life that has meaning and purpose far beyond anything we can think or imagine. It takes time as Christ shapes us and moulds us into people he would have us be.
That process sometimes is painful, sometimes it seems that it would be much easier to revert to old ways. But Christ call is to keep going – he has something in store for us. The writer to the Hebrews is reminding us to Keep Going

It is, as we shall see later in this book … a marathon … but it is a marathon within a community, a community of supporters who are encouraging us to keep going even when times are tough, when the reward seems so far away. 

I suspect for some here, times are tough … that sometimes we feel we’re hanging in there by our fingertips. 

Let’s be very clear who it is we are worshipping and giving our lives to … The bold claim of Christianity is clear …

 It is only the exalted Jesus who can make purification of sins, according to Hebrews (1:3; 8:1–2; 9:1–10:18), and provide us a way to draw near to God (4:14–16; 10:19–25).

 It is only the exalted Jesus who can offer help to us in our time of need (4:15–16), deliver us from death (2:14–15), and lead us to glory (2:10; 12:22–24). In short, it is only the exalted Jesus who is fit for our worship and attention and who can help us persevere in the Christian life.
That’s what we as Christian are sure of

Nothing less than the best

Questions for Discussion 


  • Look at verses 1:2-4 – What is said in these about who Jesus is and what he has done

  • What are my distractions? & How can we help one another to stay focused on the message of Jesus?

  • Which of the statements in 1:1-4 are most easily forgotten when life is easy 

    New Song