Friday, 24 April 2009

Parish AGM 2009

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

It has been a very busy last 12 months. We have celebrated the 150th anniversary of St Peter's, and we have had the CL mission. Not to mention the pantomime.

One of the events that I found extremely helpful was Clive Paine's lecture on the history of St Peter's. The church was founded on the desire to further the mission of the church and the proclamation of the gospel. And the gospel has been preached at St Peter’s, and from St Peter’s for the last 150 years.

And that has continued: which is why it was appropriate to have a mission in 2008 - to declare the historic truths on which St Peter's was established, but their continued to relevance to people today.

And we need that.

We live in a lost world. The economic foundations in which we put so much trust are being shaken. People do not know how to think or feel anymore. So many of us are controlled by fear.

Lilly Allen: The Fear


The passage that I have chosen for this evening is from 2 Corinthians 5. It tells us why Paul and the early Christians put so much emphasis on spending time with other people preaching, urging, persuading them that we do not need to live this way

'We try to persuade others (v11) .. be reconciled to God (v20)'

And Paul gives four reasons for trying to persuade others


1. We know the fear of the Lord (v11)

We have been entrusted with faith and the message of The Faith.

We know, says Paul, that we will be held accountable for what we have done with the precious gift of the message of the good news about Jesus Christ.

And as a parish and as individual churches we have been entrusted with so much: our people, our buildings, our gospel heritage, and our resources. And we will be held accountable for what we have done with the things that God has given us.

The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) is a parable about what we do with what God entrusts to us. We can use those things, or we can sit on them and lose them. The one who does nothing excuses himself by saying that he is fearful of the master. But the master rebukes him for being lazy. Paul in 2 Corinthians (and he is talking explicitly about what we do with the message of reconciliation) writes that fear of God will make us do something with what we have.

That is why I think that we need to do something with what we have.

It is why I am grateful to St Mary’s committee for having the courage to take the risk and appoint an Events and Visitor coordinator. At St Mary’s we have an amazing building, with about 11000 visitors each year. I think that we can build on that, not simply to increase visitor numbers at St Mary's and revenue, but to see how we can better promote the message of the gospel to visitors. There is a phrase that is doing the rounds of mission focussed churches: how to turn tourists into pilgrims

It is also why we need to do something about the Hyndman Centre. It is a great resource, but at the moment is mostly being used by groups as a venue. I would love to see us taking hold of our centre and using it to initiate community projects: so that what goes on is owned by one or more of our congregations, and is used as a way of both serving our neighbourhood and of building bridges with people in the community.

So the fear of God, the fact that each one of us will have to appear before the judgement seat of Christ, should drive us to seek to persuade others – not, in this case, because they will be judged but because we will be judged.


2. We are compelled by the love of Christ (v14)

We are talking here about a two-fold love

At an objective level we are talking about Christ’s love. Because Christ loves all people, I am compelled to persuade others. I do not try to persuade someone to be reconciled to God because I love them, but because Christ loves them. It does not matter if I do not get on with them or think they are beyond the reach of God - Jesus died for them.

That is why when we entreat people to be reconciled to God, we do so not on our own behalf. I do not urge you to be reconciled to God on my own authority. I do so, v20, on behalf of Christ. He died for you and he urges you to be reconciled with God.

Nevertheless, this love of Christ is also subjective. This love is the first of the fruits of the Spirit that will grow in the garden of the life of the Christian. It is this love that controls how we use the gifts of the Spirit. Paul in Romans talks of how God pours his love into our hearts, and in Ephesians, how he will fill us with his love.

We need to pray that God will give us this love: this love for him and this love for people. It is much easier to go out of our way to persuade someone to be reconciled to God if we love them.

And it is this twofold love: the objective love of Christ for all, and the love which Christ gives us - which I pray will drive us out to persuade people.

It is what drove people to found St Peter’s; it is what has driven people to preach on street corners (‘hell-fire corner’ – although that title should be a warning to us. We do not wish to be known as ‘hell-fire’ people, but as gospel ‘good news’ people). It is what drove people to faithfully serve, witness and preach in this place, to set up mission churches, to use innovation to promote the good news (magic lanterns).

And we need that drive, faithfulness and, at times, that innovation: film evenings, 5 o’clock services, dinner parties, fireworks, displays, exhibitions (LIFE exhibition, labyrinth), websites, twitter. We need to have the courage to try, even if we fail. But more than the innovation, we need the love


3. We look at people in a new way.

This is a central theme in these few chapters of 2 Corinthians. Paul contrasts what is seen with what is unseen.

Ch 3: we are people who are being transformed into the glory of Jesus because we are looking on him.
Ch 4: the people of this age are blinded by the god of this world. The only reason we can see is because God has shone his light into our hearts.
And Paul goes on to draw a line between the outer visible and the inner invisible. The outer is wasting away. But the inner will last (2 Corinthians 4:18)
Ch 5: continues and states that we walk (live) by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
And in our verses Paul says that he is not interested what people think of him, but what God thinks of him.

We do not look for the visible but for the invisible.
We do not look at the outer but at the inner.
We do not look at the outward appearance but the heart (v12).

By visible, outer standards Christ was a failure. He was crucified.
But from God's viewpoint, from a faith perspective, Christ crucified is the fullest expression and greatest demonstration of the love of God, the wisdom of God and the power of God. Through Jesus death on the cross, men and women were reconciled to God, evil and death was defeated.

So, Paul goes on, we don't look at people from a human point of view (v16). We are not interested in how attractive they are, how old they are, whether they are male or female, rich or poor, black or white, educated or uneducated. We look at them with the eyes of faith.

People in Christ are new creations. On the outside nothing has changed, but they are new people. The tiny seed of eternal life has been sown deep within them. You'll never see it, even with the most powerful microscope, because there is nothing visible to be seen. But by faith we believe it is there. They are resurrection people.

And we look at other people, at our neighbours, at our colleagues, at the people who use the Hyndman Centre with new eyes. Maybe they are successful or failures in the world’s eyes. But Christ died for all. Each person, young or old, is a potential new creation, a potential child of God.

I am so grateful that we are able to look at things through the eyes of faith!

Humanly speaking we are a dead loss. We might have nice buildings, but they are dwarfed by the towerblocks of our multinationals, and shopping centres. Christianity is being rapidly sidelined. Despite the spin, the reality is that the churches that are declining in numbers (even our own figures show a decline of 1 person). Even those congregations or churches that are growing in numbers are often growing at the expense of others, not at the expense of non-Christians.

And yet – looking at it with the eyes of faith – we see a different picture. A God who transforms lives; A God who provides; a God who builds relationships; a God who gives hope.

And even if we do live in a time when it seems that the god of this age has all the trump cards, the light is still shining (2 Corinthians 4:16). Nothing can stop it. And we do not need to give in to despair, or to simply give up. God is still God.

4. We try to persuade others because 'we have been given the ministry of reconciliation'. (v4)

It is significant that v20 is written to the Corinthian church and to all the saints in Achaia. Paul writes, ‘We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’.

I suspect that this is one of those places where Paul is saying to believers, 'live out this reconciliation'.

Don't talk it. Walk it.

We can say, 'Jesus died for me, and I have been reconciled to God'; We can say, 'I was an enemy of God, but now I am a friend of God'. We can say it, and the words will be meaningless. You may have been baptised; you may remember when you prayed 'the prayer'; you may have always come along to church; you may speak the right language - but if we continue to live for yourself and not for him (v15), we are not living as people who have been reconciled to God. We talk about it, but we have not received the reconciliation on offer.

So before we urge others to be reconciled to God, we need to examine whether we are just talking the talk, wearing the badge – or are we living the life.



Next year we look forward to two major events: the LIFE exhibition and the PASSION FOR LIFE mission. Both are great opportunities for helping us as we persuade others to be reconciled to God. But before we do that, we need to know that we are living as people who are reconciled to God.

The world needed to hear that message 150 years ago. And it needs to hear this message today. It is our task as a parish and as churches to live the message and to proclaim the message


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Easter Sunday 2009

2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2

Easter Sunday 2009

Happy Easter: Christ is risen!

So what? John tells us that John goes into the empty tomb, and that - although he does not yet realise that the scripture talks of Jesus' resurrection - he believes. And then it tells us that he and the others 'go home'.

The most significant event in human history has just happened in front of their noses, and the disciples look at it and go home.

I guess that they need time to work out the implications of what has just happened. And I also think that John is making the point that the event on its own will not change anyone. The thing that changes people is the coming of the Holy Spirit.

But Paul, writing between 15 and 30 years after the event has had time to think - and he is writing to the Corinthian Christians urging them to live in the light of the resurrection.

And for Paul in these verses, it comes down to how we view other people.

V16 is key: So from now on we regard no-one from a worldly point of view
Instead we regard people with resurrection shaped glasses

That is how we now look at Christ.
V16, ‘Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer’

Jesus disciples regarded him at the crucifixion as a major let down
Jews would have looked at Jesus on the cross and seen him as a man cursed by God
Paul had regarded Christ as an imposter, a fool.

But for those who look at Christ through resurrection shaped spectacles, they see love instead of powerlessness, victory over sin and death instead of failure, God’s wisdom instead of foolishness.

For society today it is not much different.

We look at people and what is important is your status, wealth, job, title, charm factor (Nigella Lawson's mother: told her daughter, 'People do not wish to be charmed, but to be charming. Your job is not to charm people, but to make them think that they are charming'.)
What is important is the amount of good or harm that you could do me. What is important is how attractive you are, how influential: and that depends on your age, your sex, the colour of your skin, your cultural background, your education, what you wear (Mark Twain, 'Naked people have had very little influence on society).

But for the Christian, the person who looks at people with resurrection shaped glasses, it is different.

Just as we do not regard Jesus Christ as the world regarded him, so we do not regard people as society regards them, but in view of the death and resurrection of Jesus:

So what does that mean? How do we regard other people in the light of the resurrection

1. WE REGARD THEM IN THE LIGHT OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
Paul writes that he is compelled by the love of Christ.

That means that we look at people as beloved by Christ:

That is the challenge. At the meeting about homelessness: one lady asked about the people who were legitimately excluded by existing hostels. What were we going to do about them?

The person who we would dismiss as worthless is beloved by Christ. Remember the sheep and goats of Matthew 25 (although that is talking in the context of the Christian community)

That is made clear in the emphasis that Paul puts on the fact that Christ died for all people (v14). This is dangerously close to the language of universalism – but v15 does talk about people who choose to no longer live for themselves but for him

So when we are tempted to dismiss someone, to consider them as worthless because they do not further our well-being or interests, or the well-being of others, we need to remember that nevertheless, here is a person for whom Christ died. Here is a person for whom God the Father was willing for his Son to die.

2. WE REGARD THEM WITH THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
When Paul says that he is compelled by the love of Christ, I do not think that he is just talking about something that is outside of him. I think he is talking of his own motivation. Christ's love has been poured into his heart, and so he looks at people as Jesus would look at them.

I guess the real challenge for me is to regard people with the same sort of love.

Sadly, the main reason that we do not wish to go out of our comfort zone to serve others or to tell them of the God who loves them, is because we do not actually love them ourselves.

And the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit and the pouring out of the love of God in our hearts are all connected. It is because Christ died and rose, that he can send the Spirit. And it is because of the work of the Holy Spirit among us and within us that we can begin to love with the love of Christ.

But we need to stay close to him, to spend time seeking him, to continue to be obedient to him, to allow his word to dwell in us - so that his love grows in us. We've been looking at the fruit of the Spirit. It is fruit; it grows. And the first of the fruits is love.

3. WE REGARD PEOPLE IN CHRIST AS A NEW CREATION
v17: 'Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!'

The old has gone: The life of death, with the old motivation and the old behaviour and the old desires and the old fears and the old destination has gone.

The new has come: the new relationship, the new family, the new motivation, the new power for living, the new ambitions, the new pattern of living, the new hope.

We are to regard ourselves in Christ as new people
The old you died with Christ.

When the Spirit made you alive in Christ, the new came.

So at one level, you are a dead person. At your baptism service you were united to Jesus in his death. Your baptism service was the funeral service of the late and very unlamented old you. It was the funeral service of the you who sought status, security, comfort, satisfaction for physical desires – before anything else; it was the funeral service of the great big 'I' that would put itself in the centre of each of our lives.

And we are to live as dead people - dead to ourselves: v15: 'And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again'.

So when selfish ambition rears its head; when lusts start to control; when fear begins to say obey me rather than do what is right, say to them, 'You are dead. You have no power over me. You died when Christ died on the cross'.

And we are to live as people of the new creation, as resurrection people: as people whose home is not here, but in the future resurrection.

So we do not seek the honours of this world but of that world - we look to see how we can please the one who loves us. And we are to live as people who are reconciled to God, who have been forgiven, who do have the Spirit - even when we do not feel it!

And we are also to regard others who are in Christ as new creations.
Recently at a meeting, where a man started grilling me about what I believed. I got the impession that he was trying to suss out if I truly was converted. I found that quite sad - fully understandable, I am an Anglican vicar - but still quite sad. I really do think that as Christians our default position should be that of trust. It is what I would call a hermeneutic based on 1 Corinthians 13 - a hermeneutic of love. 'Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres'. We take people at their word. If they profess Christ, we receive them as brothers and sisters.

So we are called to treat people in Christ as part of the new creation. They are part of the body of Christ, they will be transformed, they will be there in the resurrection

4. WE REGARD PEOPLE AS PEOPLE WITH WHOM GOD LONGS TO BE RECONCILED.
That is why we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. The task of the church, the people of God, is to bring people to God and God to people. We are the priests of the New Testament. And we do that by declaring the message of the cross and resurrection, the message of God’s love and of sins forgiven and of the gift of God’s new life to us (‘the righteousness of God’).

We urge people to be reconciled to God. We implore people to be reconciled to God.
But this is not just for non-believers
One of the things that struck me about this passage is that Paul appeals to the 'you' to whom he is writing, to people who he addresses in the next verse as 'fellow-workers'. He speaks to non-Christians and to Christians alike, and he urges us to be reconciled to God.

We have been cut off from God. We cut ourselves off from God, and as a result we were under the condemnation of God.

But God longs for reconciliation. And in sending Jesus, his Son, God has done everything necessary for us to be reconciled with him.
Christ 'died for all' (v14); 'God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them' (v19), 'God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God' (v21)

And so Paul implores us, 'Be reconciled to God'. Live it. Live 2 Corinthians 5:15
Don't take your conversion or your baptism or your right knowledge or your one-time experience of the Holy Spirit for granted. Don't presume on your role or your reputation in the church. It makes no sense claiming to be reconciled with God, if we are ignoring him. He does not want people who wear the marks of Christianity or speak the language of Christianity, but who do not live the resurrection life. He longs for people who know him, who love him, who long for him, who trust and obey him, who are growing in him, who praise and thank him - not because they ought to, or because words are put in their mouths, but because they choose to.

So even if you are a Christian, even if you received Christ many years ago, may I urge you to live as people who are reconciled with God. We need to learn to live the life of the new creation (story of girl who was deaf, who at age 12 received a cochlea implant and heard perfectly. But she needed to learn to listen)


Jesus Christ is alive.
We do not look at him as the world looks at him.
We do not need to look at people as the world looks at them.
Instead we can learn to look at people with resurrection shaped glasses

We look at people in Christ as part of God’s new creation, as resurrection people
We urge all people – including ourselves - to be reconciled with God, to live as friends of God and as resurrection people.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.

Good Friday 2009

Luke 23:46

[the final of seven meditations on the Seven last words of Jesus on the Cross]

And so we come to the end.

Jesus died as he lived.

The phrase, 'Into your hands I commit my Spirit' is a phrase that comes in Psalm 31. It was a Psalm that Jesus would have known well and would have prayed many times. The words would have sunk right into him, and become a part of his language and of his thinking – and so now, right at the end of his life, words that he has prayed so many times come through the pain into his mind.

Just as an aside, there really is a value in soaking ourselves in Scripture - in speaking verses and re-speaking them; in learning verses and re-learning them. In one convent where they recited the entire Psalter every week, someone asked one of the nuns, 'But isn't that boring'. She replied, 'Of course it is boring. But that is not the point'. The point is in letting the Word of God go deep within us, to live deep within us – so that we live it in our life, and at our death.

And Jesus lived this prayer in his life, and also in his death.

But Jesus adds something to the phrase from Psalm 31. He adds the word, 'Father'

Jesus calls God Father

He knew God as Father. He was aware of that from at least the age of 12 when Mary says to him, 'Your Father and I have been searching for you'. He replies, 'Did you not realize that I would be in my Father's house'. And Jesus is conscious of the presence of his Father, of the purpose of his Father, of the love of his Father. He says on one occasion: "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him," (Luke 10:22). Jesus prays to his Father in heaven, and when he comes to the garden of Gethsemane, even there he prays 'Father'.

And so now, right at the end of his life, he once again calls out to God as Father.

It is said that dying can be very lonely. Many people wish to have their family around them, but that is not always possible or desirable. Jesus was surrounded by people who were laughing at him or crowing over him. But now, right at the end, he is not on his own. He calls out to his Father.

Jesus entrusts himself to God

Some of you will have seen one of the programmes about the plane that crash landed on the Hudson River. The passengers who were interviewed talked about what it was like thinking that they were certainly going to die. Some said that that experience has changed their life. And it is a good spiritual discipline to face the reality of our own death, our own moment of death and what comes after.

Jesus at that moment entrusts himself into God's hands. It is what he has done all his life. This was a prayer that Jesus prayed now, but it was a prayer that he had lived. He lived in total dependence on God (even when it meant he had to go to the cross and to be crucified) and he died in total dependence on God.

This is not the end: this is a cry of hope

The pain is almost over. The task is finished. The job has been done. Jesus mission is accomplished.

Because of Jesus death, sinful human beings can be reconciled to God. There is the possibility of forgiveness, fellowship and a future in paradise. In Luke, we are told that the curtain in the temple was torn in two before Jesus dies.

So this is not the end. And it is not the end for Jesus. There is no reason to entrust ourselves into God's hands if there is nothing more.

There is a future: The Psalmist says (Psalm 31:14-15): "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God'. My future is in your hands; deliver me from my enemies" (New Revised Standard Version).

And so we conclude:

Because of the events we remember today we can

  1. Call God 'Father'. That is an immense privilege. The force that is behind the creation is not something that is blind. It is not someone who needs to be appeased, or who is completely arbitrary. It is not fate. It is someone who loves us, who has given himself totally for us and who invites us to respond to that love. And he is there for us whenever we choose to turn to him, in life and in death.
  2. Entrust our lives to God. Obey his commands; receive his promises; trust him – even when it seems the last thing that humanly we wish to do.

    Jesus invites us to trust ourselves into God's hands – not just at the moment of death, but each day. He teaches that we need to die to ourselves each day. Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". And in Luke 11:3, Jesus teaches his disciples to have that daily dependence on God. He teaches us to pray, "Give us each day our daily bread".

    I suspect that one of the reasons that our lives can feel so shallow is because we do not trust ourselves daily into God's hands. We try to play safe; to plan for all contingencies. And yes, following Jesus may well lead us to the cross, but the more we do trust ourselves to him, the more we live. In Hebrews 12:2, we are told that Jesus went through with the cross 'for the joy set before him'.

    That is why people are prepared to live for him and to die for him:

    I often quote the story of Polycarp who was on trial for his life. All he had to do to save himself was to swear by the emperor. "But the proconsul was insistent and said: "Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ." Polycarp said: "Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"" (The letter of the Church in Smyrna to the church in Philomelium)

  3. Know there is a future – whatever the situation – even when it seems that everything has come to an end. Remember the thief on the cross. It was pretty hopeless for him, and yet he called out to Jesus.

So here, we come to the end. It is the end of our meditation, and it seems to be the end for Jesus. But it was not the end. And for the person who says 'Yes' to Jesus, who calls on God as Father, and who entrusts themselves into God's hands - whatever the situation, even when we are literally struggling for our last breath - it is not the end.

It is, in fact, the beginning. It may be Good Friday today, but Easter Sunday is just round the corner.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Gentleness

Gentleness

Opposite of violent - cf 1 Tim 3.3, 1 Cor 4.21, and it is the opposite of self-assertion
Not a great quality today: don't see it with in the Apprentice; it is not recommended as the way to get on in business or in life.

But gentleness is not weakness. It is very close to meekness

Paul writes, 'by the meekness and gentleness of Christ' (2 Corinthians 10:1)

AND IF WE LOOK AT JESUS WE SEE WHAT THAT MEANS

Jesus says: Matthew 11:29 – 'Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden…'
And we see how he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 11:29)

He is making a very political statement.

But John explains this in John 12:12-16. The 'great crowd' (this is the crowd that wanted to make him King in John 6) are now acclaiming him as Messiah. Jesus does not refuse their acclamation. Instead he finds a donkey and sits on it. In other words he is saying, 'I am King, but I am coming not as a warrior, but in peace').

Someone said, 'People want to be lightly governed by strong governments'. I don't know whether that is humanly possible. But it is possible with God.

He is strong – the creator of all that is. He could demand absolute obedience and perfection from us. But he does not. He woos us, he grows us, he waits for us, he rebukes us, he sacrifices himself for us. He could be like a master with a slave, a ruler with a subject, a general with a private, a manager with an employee – but he chooses to be like a parent with a child. And he is so patient with us: we fall and we fall and we fall and we fall – and he still forgives and he still trusts. Love is ..

Paul starts to get this when he talks about his ministry among the Thessalonian Christians. He says, 'We were like a mother with her children ..' (1 Thess 2.7), and then goes on to talk about being like a father to children.

And in Galatians 6:1, he urges the Galatian Christians to restore the sinner 'gently' (Galatians 6:1 cf 2 Tim 2:25)

Of course being gentle with someone does not exclude discipline. Ask any parent or teacher. And there is a place for discipline with God. But the reason for the discipline, and the purpose of the discipline, is to restore and to heal. But the way that God exercises discipline is incredibly gentle:

Story of woman caught in adultery.

It is a great way to get things done.

That is why the bible says that we are to be gentle with non-believers (actually the one time Jesus was violent was not with outsiders, but it was when insiders were stopping outsiders from coming inside!).

Share the gospel: but do this with gentleness and respect.
We really need to hear this. Some go overboard and compel others to come in – and it puts people off. Others go the opposite way and say we must never try to proselytize.
"Civility, which I take to be a strong virtue and not simply wimpishness, requires that we not try to cram our beliefs down anybody's throats, whether we be Christian or non-Christian or even anti-Christian. But that we all try to articulate as persuasively as we can, what it is that we believe, of course in the hope that others will be persuaded."

Richard John Neuhaus in Rutherford magazine (Feb. 1993). Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 1


 

And so the bible commands us to be gentle (Ephesians 4:2); it calls us to pursue gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11); and it calls us to put on gentleness (Colossians 3:12)


 

So how can I grow to become gentle?

  1. Spend time with God. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). We will become like the one who we spend time with.

  2. Trust God, that he is in control: Phil 4:4-5.
    Remove the I in our Christian service:

    Helen Roseveare, a medical missionary in Africa, was the only doctor in a large hospital. There were constant interruptions and shortages, and she was becoming increasingly impatient and irritable with everyone around her. Finally, one of the African pastors insisted, "Helen, please come with me." He drove Helen to his humble house and told her that she was going to have a retreat—two days of silence and solitude. She was to pray until her attitude adjusted. All night and the next day she struggled; she prayed, but her prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. Late on Sunday night, she sat beside the pastor around a little campfire. Humbly, almost desperately, she confessed that she was stuck. With his bare toe, the pastor drew a long straight line on the dusty ground. "That is the problem, Helen: there is too much 'I' in your service." He gave her a suggestion: "I have noticed that quite often, you take a coffee break and hold the hot coffee in your hands waiting for it to cool." Then he drew another line across the first one. "Helen, from now on, as the coffee cools, ask God, 'Lord, cross out the "I" and make me more like you.'" In the dust of that African ground, where a cross had formed, Helen Roseveare learned the master principle of Jesus: freedom comes through service, and service comes by releasing our ego.

    I hate saying this, but God does not depend on you. His kingdom does not depend on you. My nightmare re church falling to pieces.

  3. Trust God's timing: pressures to impetuousness, forcefulness is the sense that we have to do everything now.

  4. Know who you are in God: So often I lose gentleness when I feel that I am being belittled, taken advantage of, walked over, treated like a statistic – not treated as I deserve to be treated. Things that make me very angry are waiting in a queue (and the official is having a conversation with someone else), girl at desk of swimming pool (completely my fault!). I get angry with children when they fight each other – but it is a very different kind of anger. I know what I am doing. It is the difference between being angry and seeing red.

    But actually I need to realize that my identity is tied up with God, with who he thinks that I am – and not here. We see that with Jesus as he kneels down and washes his disciples feet. John 13 says: 'Knowing that he had come from the Father and was going back to the Father, and that the Father had given him all things ..'

  5. Know your weakness, because it gives you compassion for others: Hebrews 5:2 talks of the priest. And Hebrews goes on to talk about how Jesus can show compassion to us because he was human and because he was tempted just like us.

    Gentleness in Gal 5:23 comes in between faithfulness and self-control. It is very easy to be faithful to Christ and to lose gentleness. It is very easy to be self-controlled and to become harsh with others.

Questions

  1. How would you define a gentle person
  2. What makes you see red?
  3. How do you react when you are angry?
  4. How do you react to someone who tries to compel you to do something?
  5. Can you think of a gentle person who has influenced you?

Look at Philippians 4:2-7

How are joy in the Lord, gentleness, prayer, thanksgiving and peace connected?

6.  It may be possible to be a minister and to strive for gentleness in your job, or to strive to be a gentle husband/wife/parent. How can one strive to be gentle if one is a lawyer, business woman, politician, soldier?