What is Religion doing to you?

What is Religion doing to you?

 

Text: 1 Samuel 24:1-19; Matthew 5:1-16

 

People who make no profession of religious faith sometimes achieve better characters than those who do. Pagans who never enter the church frequently shame devout worshippers by the high ethical quality of their lives. This is a disturbing fact which you and I have observed many times. It is more than disturbing. One Christian leader declared it is disastrous.

 

In the First Book of Samuel there are two versions of a fascinating episode in the war between King Saul and David. The main features of each version are similar. The king of Israel, Saul was considered the divinely appointed leader of the nation. As such, he would be considered a champion of religion. David was an outlaw, his follower’s savage guerilla fighters. Of course we know that David was profoundly religious, but not always ‘good’ in his conduct, even when judged by the standards of his age. Yet here in the dramatic scene before us –  you will find the same incident in the twenty-fourth and twenty-sixth chapters – his character is far nobler, more winsome, than that of the chief official exponent of religion.

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The Signs of Advent

The Signs of Advent

 

Text: Luke 7:18-23

 

Today is the beginning of the season of Advent when we remember the coming of Jesus into the world. In these next few weeks we shall read of the various signs that were supposed to accompany Jesus’ birth, such as the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem or the host of angels singing to the shepherds.

 

But matters are not quite that simple. It is clear that throughout Jesus’ ministry there was constant debate about the signs accompanying the activities of Jesus. Jesus himself refused to do signs to impress people or overwhelm them. Signs were there in Jesus’ ministry, but there was no attempt to dramatize them, and they were usually given in response to human need.

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Remembrance Sunday (Ps 46:1-11)

                          Remembrance Sunday (Ps 46:1-11)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1)

Story: Many of you will recall Lt. General Sir William Dobbie.  (Dobbie of Malta) who was Governor General of Malta during the Second World War – at a time when the defence of Malta was at its darkest hour.

The Italian forces had overwhelming superiority, both in numbers and firepower. Yet Malta never fell to the enemy – and for their courageous stand – the whole island was awarded the George Cross..

Historians still cannot understand why the Italians did not take the island, given its strategic position.

Dobbie, a committed Christian, realized the weakness of his position and that God alone was “his present help in trouble”. His first “Special Order of the Day”, defining policy governing the defence of the island read:
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Luther’s Favourite Text

Luther’s Favourite Text

 

Which verse would you think to have been the favourite of the great Reformer? Did you perhaps think of the Forty-sixth Psalm, that inspired Luther to write that magnificent ‘battle hymn of the Reformation’? Or did you think of that great word in Romans which unlocked the Scriptures to a simple monk, giving him and the whole church, a renewed insight into the riches of the Gospel of God’s grace? This is the word that states: “A man is justified by faith, without the works of the law.”  There might be good reason to select either of these significant passages of Scripture as Luther’s favourite, were it not for one other fact – Luther himself chose another.

 

This is the word that was bound very closely to one of the great moments in Luther’s experience, and a word to which he repeatedly returned. It is a part of a rather unfamiliar Psalm, the 118th. Of it Luther said: ‘This is my psalm which I love, although the whole Psalter and indeed the entire Scripture is my constant strength for life and is all dear to me. I am nevertheless so bound to this Psalm that I must call it my own. It has often spoken to my special need, and has helped me out of great difficulties from which otherwise no emperor, no king, no wise, clever, or holy men had been able to deliver me.’

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The Basis of the Christian movement

The Basis of the Christian movement

 

Text: Revelation 1:5b-6

 

There is a popular impression that exists to the effect that Christianity is primarily a religion for ministers and clergy. In other words for its official religious representatives. This impression would seem to be implied whenever it is suggested that the Church should express itself concerning this or that question; what is usually meant is that the ministers or clergy should get together and pronounce judgment. Even within the Christian community itself the business of keeping the church going – of ‘running it’ – is apt to be much more the concerns of the minister than of the laity. Even from the laity’s perspective as the comment is quite often made to the clergy: ‘Well that’s your job to look after the church, bring the people in and grow this church.’

 

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