We feel we’re being treated fairly when we get what we deserve. But what happens when we DON’T get what we deserve? What if there is no obvious payoff for all of our hard work? What if, despite all our laziness and failure, we’re still (to our astonishment) rewarded magnificently? None of this satisfies our innate sense of fairness. But, as we learn from Jesus’ Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, such is the nature of God’s divine love. It is, to our sensibilities, rather unfair. But that is the beauty of it.
Jesus was, of course, a Jew- the child of a pious Jewish couple who, in obedience to the customs of their people, had him circumcised on the eighth day. His first followers were all Jewish. The twelve disciples who formed his inner circle were all Jewish. The first explosive wave of growth that the early church experienced consisted entirely of Jewish converts.
In the first century, it was NOT seen as odd for a Jew to become a Christian. It WAS odd, however, for gentiles to become Christians- to walk away from the polytheism of their ancestors, embrace the God of the Jews and worship Jesus as the long-promised Jewish Messiah.
Should the new and rapidly growing church accept gentile converts? If so, under what conditions? These were some major issues that the early church had to struggle with. In Paul's Letter to the Galatians- the ninth book of the New Testament- the apostle tackles this issue head on.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll be taking a deep dive into this fascinating letter from the New Testament and, in the process, touching upon:
- Some interesting details of Paul's biography. - How the early Christians understood the law of Moses. - What salvation means and how one is saved. - What part the Holy Spirit has to play in the life of the Christian.
The good news of the Christian faith isn’t something for Christians to keep to themselves but, rather, something to be shared. Three times in Matthew 28, Christians are told to go out and tell others the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Trans World Radio (TWR) is a Christian broadcasting organization that’s doing just this. Indeed, their very calling is “to reach the world for Jesus Christ by mass media so that lasting fruit is produced.” Today for Mission Sunday we welcome Steven Shantz, TWR’s Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the course of the next few minutes, he’ll give us some insight not only into his own ministry, but the vital ministry that TWR is engaged in.
Jesus’ teaching from today’s reading in Matthew’s Gospel is a profoundly challenging teaching whose difficult subject matter is church discipline- in other words, how the church ought to go about disciplining her members who are found to be in sin. Over the years this teaching has often been misinterpreted and misapplied, the result being great suffering and harm. But, when it has been read and applied properly, it has brought tremendous healing. At the heart of Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 18:15-20 is this main idea: The church community has been empowered by Christ to deal with members who sin by engaging in a process of loving, communal discipline whose final aim is reconciliation. In this sermon, we will unpack this statement by taking a deeper look at Jesus’ teaching offered in Matthew 18:15-20.
We’re often tempted to cheer for the team that’s most likely to win. Perhaps that’s why Jesus had so many people rooting for him at the height of his ministry. He cured the sick, rebuked the rich and powerful, and announced the imminent coming of God’s kingdom. In short, he looked like a winner— the long promised Jewish Saviour. But Jesus was most certainly not a “winner” in any conventional sense of the word. After all, what great hero and saviour dies as a condemned insurrectionist on the cross? A strange one, surely.
What does it mean to follow a Saviour like this one? If Jesus suffered, what does that mean for all those who have pledged their life to serving and obeying him? That’s what we’ll be exploring in today’s sermon on Matthew 16:21-28.
In the Book of Genesis, God made a faithful promise to Abraham; namely, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. When the people of Israel settled in the land of Egypt, it seemed like God's promise to Abraham was being fulfilled. "The Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them" (Exodus 1:7).
Pharaoh, however, is not pleased with this growing population of foreigners living in his midst. In an attempt to curb the growth and spread of the Hebrew people, he not only enslaves them but orders all the baby boys to be killed.
God's promise to Abraham is now in danger. Fortunately, the God of the Jewish people is a God who remains faithful to his promise - even when that promise is threatened by the plots and schemes of wicked people.
Reading the four Gospels, we get the impression that Jesus is a difficult man to impress. However, in today’s story from the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 15:21-28) we see that Jesus is deeply impressed— impressed by the faith of a desperate gentile woman whose daughter is in need of healing.
In today’s sermon, Coralie will take a deeper look at this story. What, specifically, is so impressive about this woman’s faith? How exactly is this woman a model for those who wish to have the gift of faith in their lives? What does Jesus do in response to such faith? These are some of the questions that Coralie will be touching upon in her sermon.
After finding out about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, Jesus goes to a secluded place to be alone. However, even Jesus' plans can go awry for, upon his arrival, he and his disciples find that this supposed "secluded place" is teaming with people, all eager to see him. However, instead of growing frustrated, Jesus has compassion on the crowd and spends the day ministering to them. Meanwhile, his disciples identify a major problem: the crowds don't have enough to eat and run the risk of fainting on their way to the nearest village. Their solution is to send them on their way before they grow too hungry. Jesus, however, has other plans in mind. "You give them something to eat," he tells his disciples. What does the famous story of the loaves and fishes have to teach us about the mission of Jesus' disciples – not only the disciples from the first century but also the ones from the TWENTY-FIRST century?
"No matter how much stuff we have, no matter what our house is like, no matter what food we eat, we will always have this sense of dissatisfaction in life. There will always be the sense that we're not quite there. Something isn't right. And the good news is, we're supposed to feel that way!" The Christian message promises us something more. What is that "something more?" That's what we'll be exploring in this sermon on the 8th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans.