Sunday 11th August, 2019
Theme: Imagining Hope Week #1
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Luke 4:38-44
Can you believe that it is August already? This year just seems to be racing through at a frantic pace.
Maybe it is not time that is racing at a frantic pace, maybe the problem is that many of us race through life at a frantic pace. Maybe we have packed so many things into our weeks, that we are so busy with our work and our families and our activities that we don’t have a moment to realise that the year is slipping away, that we are too busy to notice that life is passing us by.
Did anyone watch the Nooma video which was part of the Bible studies? It is all about this topic and is worth watching. In the video Rob said a line which really hit me hard. He said that being busy is a drug that many of us are addicted to. Being busy is a drug that many of us are addicted to. Ouch.
As someone who would have to honestly confess that my last few months have been dominated by busyness … it really made me wonder. I don’t think I want to be so busy … so why am I? Is it just because I can’t say no to things, maybe I just don’t want to let anyone down? What is driving the decision I make?
A number of years ago I was at a Christian conference where the speaker was asking us what things are most important in our lives – a question very similar to our worship focus today… what do you value?
We were answering things like our families, God, keeping healthy, relaxing with friends etc. But then the speaker asked, “But are you prioritising the things that you value?”
He challenged us to try a simple exercise. He asked us three questions:
- What do you think about?
- On what do you spend your time?
- Where do you spend your money?
For many of us, the answers to those three questions were not necessarily the same as the things that we said valued … one man confessed he probably did more overtime at work than time spent with his family.
It’s challenging, isn’t it. And this is part of what we are going to explore over the three weeks of Imagining Hope in our worship and especially in the bible study groups – how do we make sure that the most important things, our core life values, are the things that are our top priorities. How do we make intentional decisions about where we are investing our thoughts, time and money.
One of the key idea that come from the Imagining Hope program is that “Values drive all that we do”. Jesus said something very similar in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is (or the things that you treasure), there your heart will be also.” Actually the message translation says it really well, “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” We need to think about our values … because our values shape all that we do – or at least should shape all that we do.
I guess it goes back to the three questions. The things that we value should shape our thinking, should drive what we do and should influence how we spend our money.
That statement is easy to say, but in practice it is not that easy. The problem with prioritising our time, our focus and our money is that often the decisions we make are not between a good things and a bad thing but rather between many good things.
For example – it is easy to decide between should I spend time with my family or should I should I go down to the pub and drink myself silly. But what about the decision … do I go home and play with my kids and continue to build my relationship with them or do I take this overtime I am being offered and invest that extra money into a college fund for my kids future. If both of those choices are things that you value highly … then how do we choose?
The bible reading that we had read today is referred to in the Nooma video which is part of this week’s Imagining Hope study. It is reading which shows two really different sides of Jesus character.
Firstly we see Jesus compassion and caring. When he arrives in Capernaum he begins to teach in the synagogue and then goes to the home of Simon for dinner. When he see Simon’s mother-in-law is sick he responds with compassion and heals her. When the news gets out and the house is surrounded by people needed Jesus help … he continued to be compassionate and “laid his hands on each one and healed them”.
But then the next morning Jesus was alone praying. The people find him again and desperate for help they plead for him to stay more people needed him – and Jesus, who compassionately healed so many people the day before – said “No” and left.
What is happening here? Isn’t helping people a good thing? Isn’t being with people, teaching them, healing them – part of Jesus’ job description? Yes – and yet Jesus said no.
What I want to suggest is that Jesus made to make a hard choice between two good things – to stay and help the people of Capernaum, which is a good thing; or to go onto the other towns to preach and help others, which is also a good thing.
But Jesus didn’t only just look at the immediate issue at hand – he looked at the big picture. What was Jesus ultimate mission? The cross. As much as he might have wanted to stay at Capernaum … he knew he had to keep moving … keep moving towards the cross.
Let me reword that statement slightly. In order to say “yes” to the people of the other towns and ultimately to say “yes” to the cross … Jesus needed to say “no” to the people of Capernaum.
I think that sort of wording is what many of us need to think about when it comes of our own life.
- In order to say ‘yes’ to building our relationship with our spouse, we may need to say ‘no’ a little more to other relationships.
- In order to financially invest in some things that we really value we may need to say ‘no’ to some other things that we have been saving up to buy.
- In order to say ‘yes’ to spiritual growth in our lives, we may need to say ‘no’ to some other less spiritual things that demand of our time
Do you get what I am saying? Because each one of us here is different, the things that God is challenging us to say ‘yes’ to and the things that God is challenging us to say “no” to will be different. We can’t say ‘yes’ to everything. Even Jesus had to say ‘no’ to some stuff so that he could say ‘yes’ to the things that were most important, so that he could say ‘yes’ to the things that he most valued.
I believe that this issue is critically important to our church at the moment as we begin this new era that we have been planning and dreaming about. As we acknowledged two weeks ago in the Hope combined service and AGM meeting, God is moving within our church. We are experience both spiritual and numerical growth … but this comes with its own challenges. At the AGM meeting we shared Church Council hope of increasing our investing in the ministry and mission – both our serving and our giving. We shared our big audacious goal of finding another $1,200 a week in regular giving so that we can employ a part time minister and reallocate our current ministry staff right across all the key areas that we value … so that we continue to grow. You can read all about this in the Imagining Hope brochure which we launch mid-week and will be available in printed form next Sunday.
But for this to happen, the starting point needs to be with a question that is deeply personal and a question that only we ourselves can answer. What do we value and how do these values play out in what we think about, where we spend our time and where we spend our money?
And how does our faith, our commitment to the church and our participation in the mission of God fit into all the other priorities in our lives?
I ask this not to make anyone feel guilty or to place expectations on anyone. We are not going to demand anyone to give of their time or money if they do not want to. And I know that some people are not in a position where they have the capacity to give more or even give at all. I am not putting any pressure on anyone to give.
But at the same time, Jesus spoke a lot – a lot – about money, and about serving and reminding us of the big picture of God’s mission for the world – to transform lives and communities. Jesus said in Matthew 6 that things like clothes or food or other things of this world, they are good but they should not be our sole focus, but rather, “Seek first the kingdom of God”.
So, my challenge for us today is to serious ponder the three questions I mentioned earlier.
- What do you think about?
- On what do you spend your time?
- Where do you spend your money?
… and see if we need to say ‘no’ to anything so that we can say ‘yes’ to God’s mission.
Or to say that in a more positive way … In order to say ‘yes’ to seeing God’s mission explode with passion and potential here at Turramurra and ride this wave of growth and momentum that God has already started, we may need to say ‘no’ to some other things.
I want us to think about that for a moment as we move into our last phase or section of our worship service this morning … participation. I want us to spend some time thinking about our values, the things that are important to us. Are they the things that we think about, spend our time on, and spend our money on? Are they the things that we have said “yes” to?
On the way in each of you would have been given a heart and hopefully a pen. I want you to spend some time participating in the question, “What do you value?” I want you to write those down on your heart. Go further that just your family … think about the other things that are important to. Maybe also ponder where Jesus fits in, or God’s mission fits in. Think about what is important to you and write them on your heart as a way of saying “yes” to them.
When you have got your heart of ‘yes’s I want you hold onto that heart. Hold it in your hand and make the commitment to think about these things more, to invest more time into them, to invest your resources, your money in them.
Maybe God is prompting you on the need to say ‘no’ to some other things too. If that is the case, listen to God. But keep it positive on your heart. Just write the yes’s on your heart.
I am going to give you a few moments to think through this…
Now I want you to put that heart someone where you will not lose it, but also where you might see it regularly. Actually a really good place is in your purse or wallet. Have it there as a reminder of the “yes” that you have made today.