Sermons

These sermons were preached in very particular contexts, but they may be a resource for the ministry of preaching elsewhere. Please seek Mark’s consent if you wish to reuse them.

“Who are we looking for?”  Brunswick Baptist Church  15th Jan 2017
Isa 49:1-7 and John 1:29-42

‘… you can talk about all your expectations and your preferences, whether they’re being met or whether they’re being disappointed, but in the end what really matters in the Gospel story is the actual encounter with Jesus. Andrew and Peter have their own language and expectations, but all of these things are transformed in the actual conversations with Jesus. They spend some time together, they listen to his teaching, and they start to do some of the necessary translation and interpretation that belongs to the life of every disciple. They begin this lifelong journey of learning by asking Jesus a very simple question: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” The narrative then tells us that they went and saw where he was staying, and stayed there themselves for the day. The word “staying” is rather oddly repeated three times, and I reckon there is something poetic about it that our English translation doesn’t quite capture. How about using the older English word, and seeing how that sounds? “Rabbi, where are you abiding?” Where shall we go so that we can abide with you wherever you may be?…’  

“Living in God’s Country”  Brunswick Baptist Church 20th Nov 2016
Psalm 46; Jer 23:1-6, Col 1:11-20

 ‘… fullness of life comes through Jesus’ suffering love, holding all things together, and in fact, God’s country is no longer a particular place at all. The kingdom of God is a space of communion, where we connect with others and with creation. Opening ourselves out into God’s communion means that we need to give up any urge to exercise political control; when we say that Jesus is lord in this space, we mean that no one else has the right to lord it over others. Rather, the church is called to embody the integration of divine love in ever-expanding networks of relationship across national and cultural boundaries. And at the heart of God’s politics, we give attention especially to the most vulnerable people and to the stranger – priorities that were already established in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament they come to a more radical and more comprehensive conclusion.’

“Pentecost”  Brunswick Baptist, 15th May 2016,
Genesis 11: 1-0, Acts 2: 1-21

‘…They want to make a name for themselves; they want the kind of fame that reaches to the heavens. This is the sort of thing that empire builders are after; they attempt to grasp the cultural and religious high ground, to demonstrate superiority through great achievement and power. They want to suggest that they have the only real civilization and that all other cultures need to aspire to the norms of the empire…’

“Blessed are the Lawyers”   Brunswick Baptist, 12th Feb 2016
Deuteronomy 30: 15-20, Matthew 5

‘…How are we using our inheritance in ways that not only maintain the spirit of the Mosaic law, but go beyond it? If we followed the spirit of Deuteronomy, we should at least be protecting the widow, orphan and stranger in the land, bearing in mind the sting in the tail of the law: If we can’t maintain minimal standards of social justice, then we have no right to keep our inheritance…’

“Joy”  Brunswick Baptist, 13th Dec 2015
Zephaniah 3:14-20,  Luke 3: 7-18

‘…Our text from Zephaniah, for example, starts with a string of commands: sing, shout, rejoice, exult! Exult is a slightly antiquated word, so I looked it up, and it was associated with another dodgy sounding word “revel” – defined as “lively and noisy enjoyment, especially with dancing or drinking.” I’m sure that my teetotaller dad would have been discomforted by the invocation of revelling, but against the sweep of history the teetotaller movement was a newcomer, born in the nineteenth century, so perhaps we could set my dad’s anxiety to one side and hear these commands again: sing, shout, rejoice, revel! There is a time for quiet meditation, and scholarly reflection, and stirring exhortations in preaching, and… there is a time for revelling…’

“Behind the Public face of God” Brunswick Baptist, 8th November 2015
Ruth 3:1-5,4:13-17  Mark 12:38-44

‘…In the Old Testament, people were often called on to care for poor widows, but here Jesus trips up his audience by showing how this widow was herself the best teacher on the topic of generosity. In effect, she was the rabbi, even though she didn’t preach or teach in any public way. You could only learn from her by watching how she lives. It’s not that she preaches without robes, like a good Baptist, or prays in an extemporary way rather than following the liturgy. Rather, she just gets on with the practice of generosity, and seeks no recognition. Only Jesus gives her the recognition…’

“Job 38” Satitoa, Samoa, 13th Sept 2015
Job 38: 1-11 and Revelation 18: 9-19

‘… The Bible teaches us that there is more than one kind of wisdom, and the book of Job does not present its theology in a simple way, free from rhetorical tensions and irony. In this poetic book, Job argues with his friends. He even tells his friends in chapter 12:7 that they need to learn more of the wisdom of the birds of the air. I thought about this verse on Thursday, when at Piula Theological College we heard the Head of State telling us that we can learn from the native Samoan starling bird, the fuia, how to think about the fragility of creation in a time of climate change. The fuia, his Highness told us, is a remarkably adaptive and nimble bird, which can live almost anywhere there are trees. It can become a model of survival in desperate times. I think that Job might well have agreed with the Head of State, if that ancient wise man could join us today. Job would tell us that when great disasters come, we should not assume that it was because of our sin. He would tell us to seek wisdom where it may be found. We cannot rely simply on the wisdom of our traditions, but humbly expect to learn new things, especially from creation. And Job would urge us to seek God, perhaps even to argue with God. Even if we have to wait a long time, we can expect to meet with God, to hear from God, even if the meeting is full of questions that reveal our own human limits.’

“Restraint”  Brunswick Baptist  2nd August 2015
Exodus 16:2-4,9-15; 2 Sam 11:26–12:13a; John 6:24-35

‘… The foundation of restraint is trust in God’s provision, as opposed to the faithlessness of accumulation. The Sabbath teaches absolute trust, and endless labour is a denial of absolute trust. We might even suggest that against all the expectations of a prosperity gospel, restraint is a key to the kingdom of God, and we need to be reminded of this key every single week. This is a very unfashionable gospel…’

“Discerning Shalom” School of Ministry – Whitley College, 14th July 2015
Jeremiah 7:1–7 and 29:4–9.

‘… instead of presuming that our own community has a privileged grasp on ideas of the good, and that we can get on with the business of bonding with like-minded people, Jesus calls, in effect, for cognitive dissonance. Get beyond the ordinary reciprocities of mutual exchange, he suggests, and engage with your enemies. The perfection of love lies in the love of enemies, not self-development.  Let your live-giving rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous alike…’

“Politics of Death”  Brunswick Baptist,   28th June, 2015
2 Sam 1:1,17-27,  2 Cor 8:7-15,  Mk 5:21-43

‘… In recent years in South Africa, the story of Rizpah has been used along with other stories from Samuel in a series of Bible studies designed to encourage conversation about domestic violence. In the study on Rizpah, the participants are asked “Which character do you identify with and why?” People are provoked to ask whether there are characters like Rizpah in their own communities, people who are willing to engage in a costly protest on behalf of those who have suffered, even when the brutal machinery of politics makes it very difficult to do so. Where are the Rizpahs right now, standing beside the bodies of the fallen?..’

“A New Covenant”   Brunswick Baptist,   22nd March 2015
Jeremiah 31:31-34

‘…Walter Brueggemann suggests that we will need to “inhale” the Torah. We will no longer rely on it as a set of statutes or contracts, or bits of paper, propped up by legal institutions, but we will need to rely on its spirit. If we do inhale it, then ironically we will be able to live according to the very norms of the old Torah, which called for the inclusion of the widow, orphan and alien. Living and breathing the new Torah will free us from the old moralism and give us new powers of neighbourly imagination. We will keep discovering new neighbours, beyond the ones that share the narrow vision of national interest. And if we have forgotten how to be neighbours, then the new covenant written on our hearts will remind us how it can be done…’

“Welcome to Marguerite” – 16th November 2014

‘… There is a kind of balance to be found in knowing that we are shaped by a world that is largely outside our grasp, and knowing that at least in some small way we can also make a contribution. An imbalance either way can be a problem: either by feeling crushed by circumstances, or on the other hand, by developing an obsession with the exercise of our own power and choices. There is a kind of grace in finding that balance between acknowledging our circumstances and stories, and at the same time, making our own contributions to them…

“Self-Control”  Whitley College, 28 October 2014

‘…Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that self-control is more clearly a value in Hellenistic ethics, and some Greek philosophers regarded egkrateia as the foundation of all the other virtues. In speaking of self-control, then, Paul is not just claiming an underlying continuity between the fruit of the Spirit and the Torah of Moses; he is also claiming a connection with a popular ethic in the culture of his day. Self-control, or inner strength, is a norm was associated particularly with athletic discipline…’

“Covenant”  Brunswick Baptist Church  19th Jan 2014
John 1:29-42 and Isaiah 49:1-7

‘… we live in an individualist culture, which has difficulty forming covenantal stability to our relationships, we need to practice telling stories to each other. That’s how communities are held together, by weaving stories that bind us together. No matter how many covenants we may find in the Bible, they are fundamentally stories that bind Israel together through thick and thin. Similarly, when we tell stories to each other in Brunswick, stories of hope and resilience, we are held together by a strong weaving. We all have a turning point story to tell, and we all need to locate our turning points inside the larger story of God…’

“Weaving the Memories of Israel” Brunswick Baptist  22nd Dec 2013
Mt 1:17–2:3, Isaiah 7:10-16,

‘…This is a scandalous exercise in weaving the memories of Israel, and it proceeds to turn the known world and its values upside down. We should be shocked and amazed. Matthew twists the normal pattern of genealogies in order to put the spotlight on a number of foreign women. We hear about Tamar, for example, who dressed as a prostitute in order to trick her father-in-law into impregnating her. We hear about Rahab, who actually was a Canaanite prostitute, not just dressing up as one, and Ruth, a Moabite woman who lured a Judahite man into marriage, let’s just say, by unconventional means. We hear that Solomon’s mother was “the wife of Uriah”, reminding us that Uriah was a foreigner and that Solomon’s mum joined the family after a trail of adultery and murder committed by King David. If this is how the family tree between Abraham and David goes, then we might be forgiven for thinking that Jesus was born into a soap opera…’

“Embodying the rule of God”   Brunswick Baptist,  22nd Sept 2013
Jeremiah 8:18–9:1 and Luke 16:1-13

‘…How will we embody God’s rule? That’s what we need to discern. But we can be sure it will include a few key things that the Gospels set out for us. First, we will need to eat with sinners, and that means Christians and non-Christians alike. We’re all sinners, and we are not called to give priority only to the sinners inside the church. We follow the man who stood for others, the man who loved prostitutes and who criticized the people with the highest religious standing. That’s not an easy act to follow…’

“Walking with Muslims” Hampton Park Baptist,  8th September 2013

‘… Let’s be clear: If there really is only one God – if we really believe this – then it just doesn’t make sense to say that people are actually praying to other gods. We believe that all human beings are made in the image of God, and therefore their hearts are shaped for communion with God, even if a thousand impediments have been put in their way. Even considering just the history of Christianity, at different times, in different cultures, in different stages of life, we have understood the character of God slightly differently, without losing our underlying core convictions about the love and justice of God…’

“Baptism” Brunswick Baptist, 31st March 2013
John 20:1-18 (English) John 15:1-8 (Farsi)

‘…What does it mean to be free? Today this a controversial question, and many people seem to think that it means doing whatever you like. In answering this question, Christian theology begins in particular with the story of the exodus. The cry of the Israelite slaves in Egypt went up to God, and God intervened. The waters of the Sea of Reeds were separated, and here the double meaning of water appears in the Bible: God parted the waters to free the Israelites but closed the waters over their oppressors. The meaning of freedom begins in the escape from injustice and sin, and this points to the new life that we celebrate at Easter and in baptism…’

“Reconciling Love”  Brunswick Baptist,  10th March 2013
Josh 5.2-12, Luke 15.11-32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

‘… It is perhaps no accident that some of the most profound reflections on reconciliation have come from a Croation theologian, Miroslav Volf. In his book, The End of Memory, he tells us why God’s grace implies a lot more than just personal forgiveness from sin. He emphasizes that the biblical ideas of salvation have a social focus on what he calls the community of perfect love. In this community, Volf says, it will not be possible for him to ignore the man who once tortured him, a man he names “Captain G”. In the final judgment of God, Volf says, he will need to come face to face with Captain G. And in this final judgment, it would not be enough if the torturer were subjected to God’s torture, as if justice were simply a matter of punishment. No, God the transformer and reconciler would need to open up the social space in a quite different way…

“Do Something” Brunswick Baptist Church  September 23, 2012
Proverbs 31:10-31, James 3:13–4:3, 7-8, Mark 9:30-37

 ‘… in order to explain what he means, he takes a little child in his arms. Whoever welcomes a child, he says, welcomes God. What kind of explanation is this? I think it’s a great explanation because it eliminates a possible misinterpretation of what he has just said.

He’s not really advising people on how to earn honour by providing service. He’s short-circuiting the entire system of honour and exchange. Children are not likely to have preached many sermons, or washed many cups, or spent many years in missionary service. They are just human beings, made in the image of God, regardless of their achievements, and regardless of their service to the community. At the deepest level, this is how things work in the kingdom of God: you are loved regardless of what you have achieved, what you have earned, and how much honour you have managed to accumulate. You are just part of God’s family, and that’s that…’

“Two Types of Prophecy” Brunswick Baptist, 15th July 2012
Amos 7:7-15, Ephesians 1:3-14

‘…prophets have historically not got along well with priests. The conflict between Amos and Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, is just one of a very long list of examples in the Old Testament where prophets and priests disagreed quite strongly with each other. And in this case, the priest goes straight to the king and warns that the prophet is undermining him. As has usually been the case, the king and the priest in this story have more brute power than the prophet, so the prophet is told to leave town. The prophet, however, gets the last word. Amos is famous among the biblical prophets for being among the first to say that religion can be a dangerous thing if it distracts us paying attention to justice. Amos had the nerve to say that if the poor are being neglected, if the powerful continue to override the weak, then God would bring judgment against Israel…’

“Marriage between Heaven & Earth”  Doncaster
John 1, Isaiah 65

‘…But in biblical theology, salvation includes communion with the land that is restored by God. So in bearing witness to this vision, we should not think of Beulah land as something we can divorce, as we gaze longingly towards heaven. The black theologian William James Jennings puts this beautifully when he describes redemption not as a stairway to heaven but as a space of communion: The space of communion is always ready to appear where the people of God reach down to join the land and reach out to join those around them, their near and distant neighbours. This joining involves first a radical remembering of the place, a discerning of the histories and stories of those from whom that land was the facilitator of their identity. This must be done to gather the fragments of identity that remain to learn from them (or at least from their memory) who we might become in that place… so that land is never simply released to capitalism…’

By Scriptures:

Genesis         Genesis 11: 1-9,

Exodus          Exo 16: 2-4 9-15

Deuteronomy Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

Joshua           Jos 5.2-12

Ruth              Ruth 3: 1-5 13-17

Samuel          2 Sam 1:1 17-272 Sam 11: 26-12 13a

Job                 Job 38

Proverbs      Pro 31:10-31

Psalm           Psa 46

Jeremiah      Jer 7:1-7,  Jeremiah 8: 18 – 9:1,  Jer 23:1-6,  Jer 29: 4-9,  Jeremiah 31: 31-34,

Isaiah            Isaiah 7: 10-16,  Isa 49:1-7,

Amos            Amos 7: 7-15

Zephaniah  Zep 3: 14-20,

Mark             Mk 5:21-43Mk 9:30-37Mark 12: 38-44

Matthew      Matthew 1:17-2:3Matthew 5

Luke              Luke 3: 7-18,  Luke 15.11-32,  Luke 16: 1-13

John              John 1:29-42John 6: 24-35,  John 15: 1-8John 20: 1-8,

Acts               Acts 2: 1-21,

Corinthians 2 Cor 5:16-21  2 Cor 8:7-15

Ephesians   Eph 1: 3-14

Colossians   Col 1:11-20

James           Jam 3:13-4:3

Revelation  Rev 18: 9-19

Advent,  Baptism,  Pentecost,  Joy

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