On Sunday September 11th, 2022, the St John’s congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary (yes, the congregation was formed on September 8th, 1872). To praise God for His faithfulness and blessing upon us, a celebration service was held at which the PCV Moderator, Rev Peter Phillips, preached the message entitled ‘God’s Word for God’s World’ (the theme chosen by the Session for our anniversary year!)
In this message, Rev Peter Phillips reminds us that in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14, Jesus gives us a very clear picture of how salvation is never earned or merited, but is always given freely by God to those who are undeserving. It is the not the self-righteous ‘good’ who make it in God’s eyes, but those who come to Him in complete humility and repentance. All this, is of course, a gift of God’s free grace.
This sermon on Luke 18:1-8 by guest preacher, Rev Peter Phillips, tackles some of the biggest questions in life. “Why is there injustice in the world? What is God doing about it? What should the response of God’s people be to injustice?” All these questions circle around us and pervade our society everyday and while it is easy to get waylaid by their pressing nature, this parable urges God’s people to prayer, patience and perseverance – all things that we need God’s help to do and do well!
On what basis are we accepted before God? In Luke 17:1-10, Jesus says his followers are unworthy servants. God owes us nothing and we owe him everything because he has accepted us by grace through faith alone. Hearing him, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith but they – and we – don’t need more faith so much as true faith. Having been forgiven, we forgive others – not to impress anyone but merely having “done what was our duty” (v10).
“You cannot serve God and money.” Jesus illustrates his teaching in Luke 16:10-31 with a story about a rich man and a poor man who live very different lives and come to very different lives after death. The warning is not only for those who are rich, yet poor toward God but also a warning to heed the Scriptures.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells another parable where an unjust steward—or dishonest manager—wasted his master’s possessions. This reminds us of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) where in the far county he wasted his inheritance in reckless living. Yet here the steward is commended as wise since “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light”. Our Lord would have us be exceptions to the rule by using our wealth wisely and making friends for ourselves by mean of unrighteous wealth, so that they may receive us into the eternal dwellings. Heaven cannot be bought – but we can invest for eternity.
The well-known parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is really about two sons. It is a parable about the love of God who welcomes sinners home but also a parable about repentance and those who think they need no repentance.
In Luke 15:1-10 we read how the Pharisees thought people were accepted by God and how they therefore found fault with the company Jesus kept. Jesus tells of the true way to be accepted by God and receives sinners. God values the lost, shows his love in the effort to find them and rejoices when they are found.
God spreads a banquet for all peoples yet the self-righteous are unwilling to enter the kingdom. They give weak excuses to justify their unbelief and despised the sinners who came readily. Sinners who know they need a saviour enter the kingdom instead of those who rejected the invitation. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 14:15-24 that shows our need – are we willing to accept the invitation and welcome others into God’s kingdom?