Friday, January 29, 2016

CP266 Worship on the Wallaby Thirroul NSW January 24, 2016

CP 266 Worship on the Wallaby – Thirroul, January 24, 2016
Over the last two weeks we’ve been down the south coast of NSW to Ulladulla and Narooma, and back to Woonona-Bulli. Beautiful places, mostly lovely people. There are always some who are ignoramuses in behaviour and attitude. Sometimes there is a thoughtlessness that leaves me scratching my head, until I have to admit I did exactly the same thing not long ago or soon after. And then, some are just pigs. We can be fickle can’t we? But, as I said, most are gentle, generous and happy to be helpful.
Sunday evening we worshipped at C3 Church at Thirroul. Our purpose is to bring God and people together.  This was our ‘home church’ during leave-of absence in 2009-2010. I count Pastor Brendan Elliott as a loved brother in Christ, and a friend. How good was it to read that they’re running a visioning weekend early in February around the theme of ‘In Him’? And they mean it. Honestly, this was the most Christ-centred worship service, in preaching and prayer, song and encouragement that I have attended in a long time. But I must tell you about the message…
The guest preacher was a youngish man from Cronulla by the name of James Murray. His text was from Luke 14. It’s the account of Jesus’ invitation to a meal at the home of Simon the Pharisee. His focus was the Jesus’ strident insistence on the ‘inclusion’ of the perfume-wasting prostitute in the kingdom of heaven. Inside his message he related an encounter he had with ‘officialdom’ in St Peter’s Square in Rome.
His parents had taken him and his wife on an all-expenses paid trip to Europe. One day in Rome they arrived early in the Square. There was no one about and James ‘tried’ the handle on a church door. To his amazement it opened and the party of four went in to have a look. Even more astonishing was the fact that a mass was in progress, led by the Pope himself. They stayed for almost the full service despite not ‘getting’ too much of the Latin.
Not wanting to be conspicuous they left before anybody else and were shocked to discover that there was now a crowd of several thousand in the Square, all eyes on that door! Feeling a bit like deer in the headlights, they were accosted by an indignant ‘official’ who rather more hauled than ushered them aside, and who then furiously remonstrated with them for being where they shouldn’t. Of course they got the message if not the words. But James distinctly heard one angrily delivered phrase: ‘You doa nota belonga here!’
James spoke about the impact of those words. You do not belong here… You do not belong here… It was as if the words had continued to reverberate as an echo in his heart. You do not belong here… do not belong… not belong… not belong… And as the echo subsided, he found himself wondering, ‘When did it change?’ He spent the remainder of his message exploring that truth, that so many Christians and Christian organisations and churches project a message of ‘unwelcome’ rather than welcome, ‘You do not belong…’ as opposed to the embracing word of Jesus, ‘Come to me all you who labour and carry heavy burdens…’, Come to me, come, come, come, come…
The Pharisee’s unspoken message to Jesus about the prostitute was, ‘She does not belong here.’ The disciples said the same thing to mothers who brought children to Jesus for a blessing. ‘They do not belong here.’ The church and churches I have been part of have been known to behave this way. I know that I have, at times, also conveyed that message. It has been ever thus. ‘’You and I’ switches to ‘us and them’. ‘They’ are unworthy. It’s in that disapproving glare, a sideways glance, a lift of the eyebrows, a back turned, and in unspoken criticisms and judgements, accompanied by appropriate body-language. Often it’s in our spoken words, and sometimes we write it in to our constitutions. The behaviourally and doctrinally righteous (that’s us) have always fallen prey to the temptation to make ‘prior righteousness’ a prerequisite for a kingdom welcome. Jesus would not have been as uncouth as me but he sure identified that position as ecclesiastical manure. First be worthy, and then come! No! No! No! All of us need to know that only Jesus himself can be our worthiness.
Preacher James said much more and in my heart I felt it came from the Father heart of Christ himself. His whole message is worth a listen. More than worth a listen. If you want, and are savvy, it is available as a podcast. Go to hit podcasts and it’s the one for last Sunday night.
Anyway, you are blessed in Him. So bless as you have been blessed.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

There but for the Grace of God go I.

8:38 PM  

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