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 message was preached for the occasion of the celebration of the contribution of our organist, Mrs Jean Spicer, for nearly 70 years, something that is a great witness to the faithfulness of the Lord and the faithfulness He calls His people to. The central message of the parable Jesus told in Luke 19:11-27, is just that – faithfulness. Each of us are given gifts of grace by God that he exepcts us to use in the furthering of His Kingdom. Even Jesus was called upon to be faithful and it is by His faithfulness that we are richly rewarded. (The hymns chosen today are Jean’s favourites!)
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.
No sooner does Christmas arrive, it very quickly goes, and is soon forgotten until it comes around again after another year. Many will fall for the trap of observing Christmas, but never knowing Jesus, the ‘reason for the season’. The gospel writer, Luke, does not want us to do that. After he wrote of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-20, he added further information about the events that happened soon after in Luke 2:21-52 – particularly the events all took place in the temple where Jesus was presented, received and began to grow. And because Christmas happens at the end of one year and the start of another, these events remind us that there is an ongoing need for God’s people to be ‘growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour’ (2 Peter 3:18) with each successive change of the calendar.
The Christmas story is an old story. Over 2,000 years old. And given that each year we hear about it and sing about it, the danger we face is that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ and that we lose the impact of the story. Maybe one way of recovering that impact is to consider the response of the people who were there at the time. These people would include those mentioned in Luke 2:18-20, those who heard the testimony of the shepherds (verse 18), Mary herself (verse 19) and the shepherds themselves (verse 20). Luke gives attention to each of these three group and by noting well their responses we might be able to sort through and answer the question, ‘What is your reponse to the news of the birth of Jesus?”
When the two travelers on the road to Emmaus met with Jesus, as recorded in Luke 24:13-35, they were downcast and disconsolate. They were men without hope. Jesus, whom they had known and had put their hope in, was dead. While they had heard rumours of Him being alive, this all must have sounded so fanciful. Strange. But when a stranger met them on the road and opened the Scriptures to them, all that changed! Jesus fixed their fallen-apart world and hope was renewed again!
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.