UPCSA Month of Mission: All People Need God's Love

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Acts 16:11-34

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How does God guide his church to the right place and time for mission?  The passage before us provides important principles for our consideration.  There will be sanctified common sense and planning (Acts 15:36).  There will be “closed” as well as “open doors” (Acts 16:7,8).  There will be guidance by way of circumstances, sometimes extraordinary (Acts 16:9,10), given to individuals as well as the whole team.  Discernment and receptivity are the keys.  Specific guidance comes to these already on the road as it were, living out the Great Command and Great Commission.  Being able to say God sent us with the wind of the Spirit at our backs and his indwelling presence empowering us is a great incentive to mission.

UPCSA Month of Mission: Seeing God’s Heart for the World

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses:

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The New Testament scholar Stephen Neill once quipped “If everything is mission, then nothing is mission”, to which the Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright responded “If everything is mission, then everything is mission”.  Little wonder that the missiologist David Bosch retorted, “Ultimately mission remains undefinable”. Since the 1950’s there has been a remarkable broadening of the term.  Caring for the environment is mission.  Community renewal is mission.  Blessing our neighbours is mission.

Strength Through Weakness : Paradox and Power

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

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The Apostle Paul counters his Corinthian opponents’ love of power with the power of love.  He contrasts their preoccupation with style and personality with gospel and character.  Having pleaded for reconciliation he urges the Corinthians “not to receive God’s grace in vain” (v12).  His plea is not to take God’s goodness for granted.  As C.K. Barret put it, “The Corinthians had indeed been reconciled to God, but it was for them to receive the reconciliation more effectively”. 

As a missionary Paul saw hardships and conflict as part of the territory.   He took it squarely on the chin without flinching or complaint.  He was no masochist.  He did not see suffering itself as a mark of spirituality.  However, linked to mission and the cause of Christ it is redemptive.  He had no romantic notions about suffering.  He had suffered too much for that!

Strength Through Weakness: Ambassadors of Christ

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:10-6:2

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Preaching has rightly been described as ‘letting texts talk’.  The text in this instance is both surprising and challenging.  It reminds us that not all fear is bad.  There is healthy fear (v11a), a timely reminder that all of us will render an account to God on that great day (v10).  Accordingly, Paul is motivated to “persuade others” by appealing “to [their] conscience” (v11).  Unlike his opponents in Corinth he does not resort to manipulation or rhetorical excess.  He simply states gospel facts: all face judgement (v10), equally, Christ died for all (v14).  There is paradox and mystery here, responsive to ‘faith seeking understanding’ as opposed to philosophical speculation about God’s character and human merit.

Strength Through Weakness: New Creation

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:16,17

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Alistair Sparks depicted our transition to democracy and beyond in two books: ‘Tomorrow is Another Country’ and ‘Beyond the Miracle’.  Hindsight has taught us that we did not miraculously change overnight and ‘another country’ has morphed into something very different than that envisaged by our founding fathers who drafted our constitution.  So how do we address the creeping cynicism in our hearts fueled by factionalism and populist rhetoric?  I would suggest that the answer lies in an ancient letter written by Paul to the church at Corinth.

Strength Through Weakness: Life After Death

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:18-5:10

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A contemporary writer has described death as a “conspiracy of silence... the universal repression of our day muffled up in illusion”.  Part of the problem is confusion.  People are not sure what happens when we die, so in the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet “death doth make cowards of us all.”

 

In stark contrast to this, Paul moves life after death from the realm of conjecture and confusion to established fact.  Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of our resurrection to follow in time.  For Paul this is no pious myth, escapist superstition, but historical fact attested to by hundreds of eye-witnesses including Paul himself.  Granted the passage before us is a difficult one, its interpretation disputed: is Paul dealing with the ‘intermediate state’ of believers upon death or the “Parousia’, the great day when Christ returns?  However, the difference is a matter of degree about which we can afford to be agnostic.

Strength Through Weakness: Style or Substance

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

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The novelist John Updike’s critique of organized religion being “like Coca-Cola billboards: they promote thirst without quenching it” is apposite with regards to Paul’s opponents at Corinth.  They were strong on style, weak on substance.  They dismissed Paul as wishy-washy and weak in comparison.  Little wonder then that Paul twice in this chapter, once at the beginning, the other at the end, reiterates “Therefore we do not lose heart” (vv1,16).

 

Strength Through Weakness: Captive and Competent

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18

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Several years ago the comedy “Twins” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny De Vito depicted two polar opposites: the one super-sized marvel of humanity, the other short and dumpy, something of a misfit.  In comparison to the ‘super-apostles’ of Corinth.  Paul was similarly written off as a wimp and ineffective.  Moreover, in their eyes he was unreliable.  He changed his travel plans at the drop of a hat.  Whilst his letters were bold and brash, his person was wishy-washy and non-descript.

 

Strength Through Weakness : Testing Times for Troubled People

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

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Paul had an ambivalent relationship with the church at Corinth.  Having established the church on his second missionary journey in the early 50’s AD, he had written both 1st Corinthians as well as a ‘painful’ letter prior to writing what is known as 2 Corinthians.  The church had all but turned its back on Paul.  False teachers, so-called ‘super-apostles’, had infiltrated the church.  Carrying letters of authority from dubious sources they had won the allegiance of most of the house churches in and around Corinth.  Trained orators, they dismissed Paul as ineffective and ‘wishy washy’ who failed to deliver on his promises.  He said one thing and did another.  His travel plans were suspect and his authority questionable.  So Paul responds.  His motive is not so much to vindicate himself rather to defend the gospel which had been compromised through false teaching which promoted legalism that led ironically to license, loose living and sexual immorality.

Grounded in the Gospel: The Heart of the Matter

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 7:1-23

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Jesus was known as the Prince of Peace, full of grace and truth.  Why then did controversy pursue him and conflict dog his steps.  From the moment of his birth King Herod tried to eliminate him.  Throughout his public ministry the religious leaders pursued him relentlessly, culminating in his death by crucifixion.

 

The conflict wasn’t political.  Last week we noted that Jesus resisted the call of the crowd, after he fed the five thousand, to become a populist liberator from Rome.  Nor did Jesus directly confront the social structures of the day.  “My kingdom is not of this world”, he said and “those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword”.

Our Trinitarian Faith Part 2 - The Trinity and the Christian Life

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Luke 3:21-22, Luke 9:28-36, Luke 10:1-24

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Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, dismissed the doctrine of the Trinity with the scathing words, “These metaphysical insanities hindered the growth of humanity and represented relapses into polytheism differing from paganism only by being more unintelligible.  How can we talk about a triune God or the three in one without talking mathematical and metaphysical nonsense.”

Our Trinitarian Faith

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Luke 3:21-22, Luke 9:28-36, Luke 10:1-24

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Many people dismiss the Trinity as impractical or irrelevant. In so doing they miss the essential nature of God – three persons in one. Human attempts to explain the logic of one plus one plus one equalling one invariably fail. Resorting to models and analogies are equally reductionist. However, as Anselm of Canterbury reminded us in the 11th Century, the mystery of theology is a matter of faith seeking understanding, we believe in order to understand. As such we turn to Scripture with a teachable mind in order to fathom the mystery of the Trinity. When we allow Scripture to speak for itself, we catch glimpses of the Trinity in the O.T. not simply as an expression of ‘the plurality of majesty’ or the ‘royal we’; but the Triune God conferring with himself in the creation of mankind (Gen 1:26) and the call of Isaiah (Isa 6:8) to name but two incidents...

Pentecost Sunday: An Invitation and a Promise

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: John 7:37-39

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Last Saturday thousands of people thronged the streets of Windsor to catch a glimpse of the royal couple Prince Harry and Megan Markle as they rode past in an open carriage. Millions more watched the spectacle on television. Six hundred invited guests attended the wedding in the chapel of St. George.
No less a spectacle was the Feast of Tabernacles some two thousand years ago, where the invitation of Jesus was not restricted to 600 people, but was open to all. Celebrated in the Jewish autumn of September and October, the feast recalled God’s provision for his people during the wilderness wandering prior to entering the Promised Land...

Grounded in the Gospel: Authentic Listening

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 4:1-20

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A parable can be likened to an audiology test. Hearing, or better heeding, is the only way to understand the parables of Jesus. Parables are like stained glass windows; dull and opaque from the outside, brilliant and shining from within. Jesus in this instance speaks of a sower indiscriminately scattering seed which falls in turn on the pathway, rocky ground, among thorns and good soil. The farmer is excessive and almost wasteful. So intent is he on a harvest, that he sows in every corner of the field. Even so, typical of the austere farming conditions, rocks, thorns and adverse elements see three quarters of his labour lost. Hardly encouraging odds. But the parable does not end on a discouraging note. The good soil produces a breathtaking harvest with amazing results in spite of poor beginnings....

Grounded in the Gospel: From Fear to Faith

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 5:1-20

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Jesus’ encounter with a demonized man is a salient reminder of two extremes to be avoided. Some dismiss the devil as a mythological character personified as a cartoon character, others have an unhealthy preoccupation with his dark world. In the preface to his “Screwtape Letters”, CS Lewis writes, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”...

Grounded in the Gospel: Following Jesus

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 3:7-35)

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Wherever Jesus went crowds followed him.
They saw him as a celebrity, itinerant rabbi. Attracted by his miracles and healing they gathered in Galilee from far and wide: Jewish people from Judea and Jerusalem some 140kms away, Idumea and Transjordan culturally diverse, Tyre and Sidon some 70kms away majority Gentile. However, Mark regards the crowds as passive onlookers at best, obstructive obstacles at worst...

Grounded in the Gospel: The Power of Forgiveness

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 2:1-17

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The funeral of Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela last Saturday has placed forgiveness and reconciliation front and centre in South-Africa. On a global scale we have seen governments and countries engage in potentially deadly tit-for-tat retaliations. Many people regard forgiveness as a sign of weakness. Revenge for them is the only moral way out. People who live that way tend to think that God is like that too. As Tom Wright put it, “Forgiveness is the most powerful thing in the world. But because it is so costly, we prefer to settle for second best.”
Not so for Jesus...

The Servant Songs: Courage for the Call

Preacher: Rev. Elsie Armstrong Rhodes

Verses:  Isaiah 49:1-7 and John 1:29-42

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On the 11th of March we had the privilege to have The Word preached to us by a sister in Christ from the USA, the Rev. Elsie Armstrong Rhodes.

She shared the above sermon with the congregation, providing a beautiful, encouraging and challenging message on faith, trust and the courage to go into the world and shine God's light.

Grounded in the Gospel: Jesus Proclaims the Kingdom & Calls His Disciples

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 1:14-20 & Jonah 3:1-10

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In both texts, Mark 1:14-20 and Jonah 3:1-10, the writers (Mark & Jonah) are trying to show us two important things:

  1. The necessity of the gospel
  2. The nature of discipleship

The story of the City of Nineveh is one that shows the impact that proclamation of God’s message has on a life of sinner. Firstly, it brings salvation. Secondly, it demands repentance—a radical change of heart. The content of the message shows the problem of humanity (sin), its consequence (impending judgement), and solution to the problem (God’s plan of salvation). It is a message of hope—the forgiveness of sin. The story also shows us that without God, man is lost, and without hope. Salvation of man is the work of God alone.

Grounded in the Gospel: The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 1:6-13

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Of all the gospel writers, it is Mark who affirms the humanity of Jesus in a compelling way. Having highlighted the divinity of Jesus right at the outset as “the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1), he underscores the humanity of Jesus. Jesus grows hungry and thirsty. He falls asleep in the prow of the disciples’ boat. He is unaware of things on one occasion. Mark invites us to enter the drama of his gospel by following the actions and activities of Jesus. The pace is breath taking at times as out preconceived ideas about Jesus are challenged to the core. Mark is more concerned with what Jesus does than what he says...