Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Listening

Been neglecting this blog ...  Might be time to resurrect it

Pastor's notes for 15 Dec 2013

Listening

One important word during the season of Advent is “WAIT”. Last Sunday I shared an article by Margaret Manning on the theme of waiting. One important reminder she shared was:

The season of Advent that precedes Christmas is a season of hope-filled waiting. Advent looks forward in anticipation of Christ’s return, but also remembers all those who awaited his arrival into our world more than two thousand years ago. Advent is a season of stillness and reflection and as such, it is the antithesis of all the busyness and chaos of the Christmas shopping season.

This week I would like to add another word for our consideration. And that word is “LISTEN”.

We live in a culture where we are not used to waiting. Popular culture works at conditioning us to want everything now. New quickly becomes old and we being conditioned to be easily distracted and impatient for the next cool thing, the latest upgrade etc. Many get restless and bored within minutes and get agitated and have to plug in the ear phones for some music to fill the silence or to drown out the activities around them. It is almost as living in the present has become unbearable.

We are often in such a hurry to get to the next exciting thing that we miss out of the wonder of the present. Revelation 1:8, 22:13, Exodus 3:14 and Hebrews 13:8 are some key passages that remind us that God is timeless, unchanging and at work simultaneously in the past, present and future.

In Advent we are preparing to remember a past event of eternal significance – the birth of the Saviour. We are also waiting in anticipation of a future event of eternal significance – the return of the Saviour. But we will miss out the wonder and appreciation of these two events if we forget the significance of the present – the now. God is at work in the present and we will miss this when we do not take time to wait upon Him and listen to what He is saying.

Many of us are familiar with the beautiful promise of Isaiah 40:30-31 related to waiting. But read on to the next verse 41:1 and see how listening is connected with waiting.

30    Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
       they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

41:1 Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
let the peoples renew their strength;
       let them approach, then let them speak;
let us together draw near for judgment.

Most church ministries like home group, youth, Sunday School have closed for the year. Others are also winding down. Ministries have slowed down so we can have time to rest and be refreshed. A big part of this refreshment can only truly happen when we take time to slow down, wait and listen.  

May you hear the voice of God this Advent season!

“Advent: the time to listen for footsteps — you can't hear footsteps when you're running yourself.” - Bill McKibben








Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Lesson from back packing?


For the 14 July 2013 bulletin

A Lesson from back packing?

I came across this interesting illustration recently which pulled together a lot of my stray thoughts over the last few days. First the illustration... 

 Backpacking has taught me the value of traveling light. One seasoned hiker explained it this way. Prepare for a hike by making three piles. The first pile should contain only those things you absolutely cannot live without. In the second pile put the things you would like to have but don't have to have. Then in the third pile, put all those things that would make life on the trail a lot more comfortable but which you could get along without. This is where you put the light weight hammock, the camp chair, and your extra clean clothes. Now, discard everything that is in piles two and three, pick up the first pile and head for the woods. That is what Jesus is advising his disciples to do in today's lesson (i.e. Luke 10). Travel light. Don't get bogged down with too many things. (N. Fred Jordan, Jr.)

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. (Luke 10:2-4) – do read the full context though.

While I am certainly not a backpacker, I would certainly qualify (as do all of us) as a traveller simply because the world we live in is transient. As the line from the old song goes “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.”

There was Raymond’s sharing on Sunday during communion that made me think afresh on the frailty of life and our purpose here on earth. Then, dinner and then conversation with an old friend (one of my ex youth) which brought back memories of how she close she was to dying of serious blood loss right in front of me (“freak” accident) and the amazing series of back to back “coincidences” that prevented that.

Then there were many conversations with people who happened to be cleaning up their rooms or homes because of clutter or downsizing. And in the process, they discover huge amounts of items that are good and nice, but ultimately unnecessary and unused.

Then a picture on someone’s Facebook status that was divided into four quadrants columns comparing the rich and the poor. Top left a beautiful house (rich), top right a shack (poor). And bottom left, a hole in the ground (a grave for the rich), and bottom right, the same picture. The point being that both the rich and poor will share the same fate one day – death.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having “stuff” as long as they do not distract us from remembering our true purpose on this earth (living for the glory of God). I am reminded of an old story I read years ago of a man showing off all his many and wonderful possessions, his latest acquisitions etc. to his new neighbour (a Quaker Christian). After politely listening, the Quaker smiled and replied something to the effect of If you ever want to know how to be truly happy without all these things, call me and I will be happy to share with you.”


Let us beware lest our possessions that are meant to be a blessing become a distraction. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

A brief reflection on Joshua’s ordination as a leader.

Pastor's notes for the 30 June 2013 bulletin


A brief reflection on Joshua’s ordination as a leader.

In my reading this week, Numbers 27:18-20 caught my special attention. In them Moses is told by God to “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.  Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. (ESV)

The phrase in verse 19: “in whom is the Spirit” emphasizes that Joshua position of leadership is God ordained. It marked him out as different from all the many capable leaders of Israel.  It made me ponder again why God chose Joshua to take over from Moses. There were others who were surely eligible for this position. There were for example 70 elders who had experience in leadership, there was Eleazar, Phinehas and even Caleb.
Perhaps the most obvious reason would seem to be that Joshua was a skilled military commander. But it is clear in the book of Joshua that while this may have been so, God was the one who was responsible for the victories using humanly speaking at times using questionable strategies. Before the battle, God sent and angel to Joshua, who identified himself as the Commander of the Lord’s army (Joshua 5:13-15) to make it absolutely clear that God was in charge of the battles not Joshua. And the way their first major victory was won, as was their first defeat made left no doubt about this (read Joshua 6 and 7).
I think though that the most probable (and main) reason was that Joshua was a consistent, humble and faithful assistant to Moses. This is how Exodus 33:11 describes Joshua:
Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”
The phrase “would not depart from the tent” is very revealing. It is a description of faithfulness to Moses and his responsibility before God. It is a description of humility to take his place outside and not demand to be in the inner circle. It is a description of his consistency to do for around 40 years for remember Joshua was already Moses assistant when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:13).
Biblical Christian leadership is not primarily about skill and intelligence. It is about faithfulness to God, humility in service and long consistency in doing so.  Jesus himself modelled and taught this.

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

The common language of brokenness

For the 16 June 2013 bulletin

The common language of brokenness

I read a fascinating story some months back which I filed away that I would like to share. It was about a North Carolina Judge Jesse Caldwell who told a story of Vietnamese woman who was waiting her turn to be examined in a crowded hospital emergency room.

She gradually became aware of a frustrating “non-conversation” being attempted a few seats down. A nurse was trying to ask a new patient for some details on her illness. The patient spoke Spanish. The nurse did not.

The Vietnamese woman listened for a minute then realized that while she didn’t speak Spanish she did understand the broken-English bits and phrases the Spanish speaking patient offered as answers. Because of her own experience of learning to communicate in “broken English,” the Vietnamese woman could hear the heart and gist of what this other woman was trying to say. The Vietnamese woman offered to “translate” the broken English of the Spanish speaker into something the nurse could understand. She was so successful at bridging the brokenness of their languages that eventually the Vietnamese woman was hired by the hospital as a kind of generic translator.

“Broken English” is actually acknowledge as an actual language!

While broken English was clearly the common language of so many hospital patients, there is large common denominator of broken-ness that we all share. All of us at one point of our lives (if not already on numerous occasions) will have our hearts broken as part and parcel of our human experience. While that may not certainly be a comforting thought, what is comforting is that God not only intimately understands broken heartedness, He is able to heal our broken hearts and our broken lives because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.

Isaiah 53 is just one of many passages in the Bible which reminds us of this. May this passage encourage us to turn to a God who cares in our times of need.

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
       and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
      Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
       yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
      But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
       upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
      All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
       and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

How do we use the time God has given to us?

For the 9 June 2013 bulletin

How do we use the time God has given to us?

Earlier this week, someone posted on FB a link to a NZ Herald story in which a 19 year old Whangarei man who was "sick of playing Xbox" while on home detention asked and was granted his wish to serve the rest of his sentence in jail. He had already served 10 months of an 11-month home detention term and with one month to go "had run out of Xbox games to play", and told the police that if he wasn't picked up and taken to jail, he would breach his home detention sentence..
Apart from the usual expected incredulous reactions to this story, I found myself wondering how I would spend my time if I could not leave my house for 11 months. Psalm 90:12 came to mind: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”And it made me wonder: Would I have wasted my time like this young man or would I have been able to use it wisely?
There’s a lot of teaching in the Bible concerning time, but just a couple of thoughts
In the Old Testament, M.H. Cressey in The New Bible Dictionary aptly points out that “ … the most frequent contexts of the words translated ‘times’ and ‘seasons’ suggest a concern for appointed times, the right time, the opportunity for some event or action …. In particular, all these words are used to refer to the times appointed by God, the opportunities given by him (e.g. Dt. 11:14; Ps. 145:15; Is. 49:8; Je. 18:23).”
The start of winter will restrict or take away (for some of us) some of our regular fun daily activities. Cold wet nights for example may “force us” to stay indoors, but surely it should not create a situation where we quickly find ourselves bored or wasting time?. It is a good time to ask God how we should be spending our “home detention”.  Perhaps these times are simply God’s appointed opportunities for us to slow down, or reflect on the direction of our lives and how we use our time?
Paul’s admonishment to us in Ephesians 5:15-17 is worth meditating on.

1Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

Jesus Loves Me

For the 2nd June 2013 bulletin

Jesus Loves Me

Anna B. Warner, 1820–1915

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17)

The story is told of a brilliant professor at Princeton Seminary who always left his graduation class with these words: “Gentlemen, there is still much in this world and in the Bible that I do not understand, but of one thing I am certain—‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’—and gentlemen, that is sufficient!”

Without doubt the song that has been sung more by children than any other hymn is this simply stated one by Anna Warner. Written in 1860, it is still one of the first hymns taught to new converts in other lands.

Miss Warner wrote this text in collaboration with her sister Susan. It was part of their novel Say and Seal, one of the best selling books of that day. Today few individuals would know or remember the plot of that story, which once stirred the hearts of many readers. But the simple poem spoken by one of the characters, Mr. Linden, as he comforts Johnny Fax, a dying child, still remains the favorite hymn of countless children around the world.

Jesus loves me! this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me! loves me still, tho I’m very weak and ill, that I might from sin be free, bled and died upon the tree.

Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in.

Jesus loves me! He will stay close beside me all the way. Thou hast bled and died for me; I will henceforth live for Thee.

Chorus: Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

William Bradbury, the composer of the music, was one of the leading contributors to the development of early gospel music in America. He became recognized as one of the pioneers in children’s music both for the church and in the public schools. In 1861 Bradbury composed the music for Anna Warner’s text and personally added the chorus to her four stanzas. The hymn appeared the following year in Bradbury’s hymnal collection, The Golden Sower. It had an immediate response.

For Today: Genesis 33:5; Psalm 127:3; Matthew 11:25; Mark 10:16
“If there is anything that will endure the eye of God, because it still is pure, it is the spirit of a little child, fresh from His hand, and therefore undefiled.” Ask God to give you this kind of spirit.

Source: Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A pastor’s struggle with same sex attraction

For the 26 May 2013 bulletin

A pastor’s struggle with same sex attraction

I recently came across this blog / article I found very helpful. It is by Sam Alberry, an associate pastor at St Mary's Church in Maidenhead, UK. The following is some excerpts from his article. You can read the full article at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/01/10/how-can-the-gospel-be-good-news-to-gays/ )

Homosexuality is an issue I have grappled with my entire Christian life. It took a long time to admit to myself, longer to admit to others, and even longer to see something of God's good purposes through it all. There have been all sorts of ups and downs. But this battle is not devoid of blessings, as Paul discovered with his own unyielding thorn in the flesh. Struggling with sexuality has been an opportunity to experience more of God's grace, rather than less.
Only in recent months have I felt compelled to be more open on this issue. For many years I had no intention of being public about it. I am conscious that raising it here may lead to any number of responses---some welcome, some perhaps less so. But over the last couple of years I have felt increasingly concerned that, when it comes to our gay friends and family members, many of us Bible-believing Christians are losing confidence in the gospel. We are not always convinced it really is good news for gay people. We are not always sure we can really expect them to live by what the Bible says.

As my mind raced that lunchtime God gave me a verse to share with my friend. It demonstrates precisely why following Jesus is worth it, in this lifetime, and even when we have to give up things we could never imagine living without: Peter said to Jesus, "We have left everything to follow you!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no-one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much as in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields---and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:28-30)
Following Jesus involves leaving things behind and giving things up. For gay people, it involves leaving behind a gay lifestyle

He continues by briefly explaining some biblical texts on the issue, and this was his conclusion.

As someone who experiences homosexual feelings this is not always an easy word to hear. It has sometimes been very painful to come to terms with what the Bible says. There have been times of acute temptation and longing---times when I have been "in love." And yet Scripture shows that these longings distort what God has created me for.
And, finally he ends with these words.

There is a huge amount to say on this issue, but the main point is this: the moment you think following Jesus will be a poor deal for someone, you call Jesus a liar. Discipleship is not always easy. Leaving anything cherished behind is profoundly hard. But Jesus is always worth it.




Saturday, May 18, 2013

Great is thy faithfulness and Pentecost Sunday thoughts (pastor's noyes)


For the 19 May 2013 bulletin

PASTOR’S NOTES
The following piece was submitted by Magdalene, which I found so timely as last week I was discussing with a number of church members the stories behind some of the great hymns of the church. Enjoy!
Story behind the hymn:
Great 
is Thy Faithfulness
Thomas Obadiah Chisolm (1866-1960) had a difficult early adult life. His health was so fragile that there were periods of time when he was confined to bed, unable to work.
Between bouts of illness he would have to push himself to put in extra hours at various jobs in order to make ends meet.
After coming to Christ at age 27, Thomas found great comfort in the Scriptures, and in the fact that God was faithful to be his strength in time of illness and weakness, and to provide his needs.
Lamentations 3:22-23 was one of his favorite scriptures: “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”
While away from home on a missions trip, Thomas often wrote to one of his good friends, William Runyan, a relatively unknown musician. Several poems were exchanged in these letters.
Runyan found one of Williams' poems so moving that he decided to compose a musical score to accompany the lyrics. Great is Thy Faithfulness was published in 1923.
For several years ,the hymn got very little recognition, until it was discovered by a Moody Bible Institute professor who loved it so much and requested it sung so often at chapel services, that the song became the unofficial theme song of the college.
It was not until 1945 when George Beverly Shea began to sing Great is Thy Faithfulness at the Billy Graham evangelistic crusades, that the hymn was heard around the world.
Thomas Chisolm died in 1960 at age 94. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 1,200 poems and hymns including O To Be Like Thee and Living for Jesus.
A brief thought on Pentecost Sunday
Today is also Pentecost Sunday, where it is common (and a good thing) for many to reflect again on Acts 2. But I thought that it might help bring some freshness to also consider Genesis 11:1-9, which is the OT reading for Pentecost Sunday.
This passage reminds us that sin is a serious matter and humanity united in sin and disobedience can destroy all that is good in the world. It is a helpful context to understand Acts 2. In Acts 2, God reversed the confusion of the languages and signalled among other things a new unity through the Holy Spirit – a unity not for evil but  for good in the power of, and through obedience to the Holy Spirit .
It is in this age of the Holy Spirit that we now live – and it is good to reflect on how we can be united in Christ for the sake of living holy lives and doing our part to usher in the kingdom of God. 


why God made mums (Pastor's noyes)

For the 12 May 2013 bulletin


PASTOR’S NOTES
Happy mother's day! I got this in the mail earlier this week and thought it would be nice to have something light on mothers this Sunday ...
Why God made Mums
Brilliant answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:
Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring
What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.
Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.
What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.
What did Mom need to know about Dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that mom didn't have her thinking cap on.
Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than Dad.
What's the difference between moms & dads?
1. Moms works at work and works at home & dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic; they make you feel better without medicine.
What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.
If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Time (a poem / prayer by Michael Quoist)

For the 5 May 2013 bulletin

Time (a poem / prayer by Michael Quoist)


All men complain that they haven't enough time.
They look at their lives from too human a point of view.
There is always time to do what God wants us to do,
but we must put ourselves completely into each moment that he offers us now.
I went out, Lord. Men were coming and going, walking and running.

Everything was rushing; cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
Men were rushing not to waste time.
To catch up with time, to gain time.
Good bye, Sir, excuse me, I haven't time.
I'll come back, I can't wait, I haven't time.
I must end this letter - I haven't time.
I'd love to help you, but I haven't time.
I can't accept, having no time.
I can't think, I can't read, I'm swamped, I haven't time.
I'd like to pray, but I haven't time.

You understand, Lord, they simply haven't the time.
The child is playing, he hasn't time right now..later on...
The schoolboy has his homework to do, he hasn't time..later on...
The student had his courses, and so much work...later on...
The young man is at his sports, he hasn't time...later on...
The young married man has his new house; he has to fix it up, he hasn't time...later on..
The grandparents have their grandchildren, they haven't time... later on...
They are dying, they have no...
Too late!...They have no more time!

And so all men run after time, Lord.
They pass through life running - hurried, jostled, overburdened, frantic,
and they never get there. They haven't time.
In spite of all their efforts they're still short of time.
Of a great deal of time.

Lord, you must have made a mistake in your calculations.
There is a big mistake somewhere. The hours are too short, the days are too short.
Our lives are too short.

You who are beyond time, Lord, you smile to see us fighting it.
And you know what you are doing.
You make no mistakes in your distribution of time to men.
You give each one time to do what you want him to do.
But we must not lose time
waste time,
kill time,
For time is a gift that you give us,
But a perishable gift,
A gift that does not keep.

Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The years of my life, the days of my years, the hours of my days.
They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim.
To offer them to you, that of their insipid water You may make a rich
wine as you made once in Galilee.

I am not asking you tonight, Lord, for time to do this and then that,
but your grace to do conscientiously, in the time that you give,
what you want me to do.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quotes that caught my attention in my reading the last couple of weeks


Pastor's notes for 28 April 2013 bulletin

Quotes that caught my attention in my reading this week

I thought I would share some of the quotes that caught my attention the last couple of weeks.

Consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.
-           Quote attributed to William Booth (a Methodist minister who founded the Salvation Army(  made at the end of the 19th century.

 I do not tire of telling everyone, especially young people who long for their people's liberation, that I admire their social and political sensitivity, but it saddens me when they waste it by going on ways that are false. Let us, too, all take notice that the great leader of our liberation is the Lord's Anointed One, who comes to announce good news to the poor, to give freedom to the captives, to give news of the missing, to give joy to so many homes in mourning, so that society may be renewed as in the sabbatical years of Israel.
-          Quote attributed by Archbishop Oscar Romero (a Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated on 24 March 1980 for refusing to stop speaking out against government repressions and violations of human rights

Each of us has a mission in life.  Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying:  "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18).
 We seldom realise fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks.  We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live.  We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die.   But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was.  Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.
-          Henri Nouwen (from “Bread for the Journey”)

How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?
-          Eugene Peterson (from “The Contemplative Pastor”)

A note on Psalm 23 v3a “He (God) restores my soul.”

Pastor's notes for the 21st April 2013 bulletin


A note on Psalm 23:3a “He (God) restores my soul.”

For those who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, this Sunday’s Psalm is Psalm 23. Psalm 23 is arguably the most well-known Psalm in the Bible and probably also the most beloved. For me personally, not only have I read it numerous times, I have also preached on it a number of times. So in reading it again this week, I wondered if it were possible for me to do so with fresh eyes.

I am thankful that the answer was a resounding YES. God’s Word is indeed amazing. The phrase this time that caught my eye was verse 3a “He (God) restores my soul.” I suspect it was because at the moment of reading, my soul (nepes) was feeling tired. (“Nepes” basically means “breath, the inner being with its thoughts and emotions”).

The question that came to my mind was: “How Lord? How do you restore my soul?” I was reminded afresh via a word study that word translated “restore” (sub) basically means “to turn, to return, to go back, to change, bring back...” And while I must confess that my understanding of Hebrew grammar is weak, I do know that the “active” voice and “imperfect” aspect of the word “restore” (sub) reminds me of two things.  The first is that God is the one who does the restoring. And the second is that the restoring comes not via a one off action but through ongoing progressive actions.

The “open secret” of having our souls restored (refreshed) is simply to allow God to regularly and consistently restore our souls back to the way it is meant to be. (Perhaps back to the basics of my relationship with God and my reason for existence?) While things like holidays, entertainment, recreation and sleep have their place, the primary source of lasting refreshment is God himself. And in the context of Psalm 23, we know God who is the LORD (the God who has made a personal covenant with us) who seeks to care for us as would a Good Shepherd for His sheep.

            “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30: The Message)